Tuesday, November 4, 2014

International Rugby: No Coverage at all for Canada v Namibia

Image: NWRUC
The global rugby community has been let down as an international match to be played in Wales this Friday will not be streamed or televised whatsoever. The fixture of Canada v Namibia is to be played in Colwyn Bay, Wales giving only the local population the opportunity to view what is a match between two countries who will be involved in Rugby World Cup 2015. With the fixture being operated according to cost-cutting measures neither Canada nor Namibia was able to secure the match within their territories. Colwyn Bay was able to secure the fixture as it continues to press hard for rugby within Wales to expand beyond its traditional southern stronghold to compete better with soccer which is more popular in the north. Securing the fixture enables the region to be treated to international rugby. The Welsh test team last played a home international outside of Cardiff in 2003, taking-on Romania in Wrexham. 

The scheduling of test match rugby in Colwyn Bay is nothing new. The Northern Welsh town has hosted five international matches since November 2012. Canada is to be playing for the third time after it faced Russia and Samoa at Eirias Park in 2012. The most recent fixture was Japan v Russia last November while the USA v Russia was moved to northern London after USA Rugby was unhappy with playing in a remote part of the U.K. 

Amongst those unhappy with being allocated a neutral fixture in Colwyn Bay were USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville and USA Eagles captain Todd Clever. Members of the U.S. and Canadian rugby media were involved in displaying displeasure towards playing at Eirias Park due to it lacking an ex-pat population, being isolated from rugby heartland and it being a small town which is not easily accessed.

IRB.com has streamed test matches at the venue previously and this has enabled the decision of playing in such a location to be partially justified. But with Rugby Canada officials now having confirmed that the match against Namibia will not be viewable at all this Friday's fixture will likely bring to an end the scheduling of neutral matches at Colwyn Bay.

Supporters have responded to the criticism by encouraging people to attend the match but this has not convinced disappointed supporters. Canadian Doug Musk told Argentina 2023 that it was ''unacceptable and should not be played in Colwyn Bay'' while Kyle Phillips said that he hopes it marks ''the end of neutral matches for Canada''. Musk explained that ''being a Friday fixture it is simply not realistic for those in London to get to the park''.

In the future authorities ought to act differently to ensure such fixtures can be broadcast live. The decision to have the match in Colwyn Bay was always questionable. With England and Wales hosting Rugby World Cup 2015 there was an opportunity of having one of the smaller venues, such as Exeter or Gloucester, host the fixture.

Canada will face Ireland in Cardiff in the opening weekend of Rugby World Cup 2015 before playing in three English cities. Namibia is not to play in Wales but has two matches in Exeter. Having Sandy Park allocated the fixture therefore would have been of extreme benefit for the purposes of promoting the World Cup in and around Exeter. Alternatively Canada v Namibia could have been played as a curtain-raiser to a test match in either London or Cardiff this month. 

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