Friday, November 11, 2011

The Rugby Championship: an Australian’s perspective

The Rugby Championship: an Australian Fan’s perspective

by Stuart Pearson

For a large number of Australians, Argentina is unfortunately a little-known country far removed from our shores, which many would regard as somewhat ‘mysterious’ and ‘exotic’. Historically, it is the home of Tango, football, periodic military coups, Eva Peron and a regrettable war with Britain over a group of insignificant islands in the Southern Atlantic. However, with more than 100,000 descendants from South America now living in Australia (15,000 from Argentina alone), our perceptions are rapidly changing.

Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the warm relationship Australian rugby has long-held with Argentinean rugby. For example, the two countries have played 17 tests against each other since 1979. In the 1990s our bonds with each other were made even stronger, when Argentine prop Patricio Noriega immigrated to Australia to firstly play provincial rugby with the ACT Brumbies and then (after waiting the required qualifying period) 25 tests with the Wallabies. He retired from a distinguished playing career in 2003, but still performs a crucial role as the current scrum coach for the Wallabies.

In Australian rugby circles the recent announcement that Argentina will join an expanded Tri-Nations, was long overdue. The Australian Rugby CEO, John O’Neill who has advocated Argentina’s inclusion for several years said, “The Rugby Championship will be the best of the best and represents the latest stage in the evolution of the game in the southern hemisphere. This will be an exciting, enthralling, intense Championship of home and away matches between four heavyweight nations.”

From Australia’s standpoint, this is a significant moment in the history of Southern Hemisphere rugby and marks the launching pad to a dramatically changed landscape. It will add a new flavour and dimension to SANZAR rugby and offers the prospect of promoting rugby in other South American nations.

This last point has, I believe, been overlooked by most commentators. The inclusion of Argentina into an expanded Southern Hemisphere Championship is only the first step. Argentina will be used to further expand rugby across the rest of South America. Likewise New Zealand will continue to influence the Pacific Islands; Australia, to push rugby in South East Asia and finally South Africa to expand rugby throughout the rest of the sub-Saharan Africa.

These are bold moves by SANZAR and the International Rugby Board to expand the game globally. No one really knows what the landscape of rugby will look like in ten or twenty years time, but one thing is absolutely clear – Argentina will play a pivotal role in rugby’s future from now on. To all my friends in Argentina and especially Nestór Cadario in Cordoba, welcome to the toughest, most exciting rugby competition on the planet. Buena suerte!
Argentina 2023 wishes to warmly thank Stuart Pearson for his contribution. His knowledge of Australian sport is well known in rugby forums - in particular the ongoing battle being fought between the codes of Australian Rules Football, Rugby League, Rugby Union and Soccer within Australia is something he is well known for. Stuart is a rugby mad Australian who has long been involved in the sport in Sydney. He is a fan of the NSW Warratahs and regularly attends Super Rugby and international matches.

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