Australian rugby chief John O’Neill yesterday warned that the game is in danger of a worldwide split over the new law variations.
Peter Bills writes for The NZHerald that the ARU chief executive believes there are severe consequences for the game in both hemispheres from the key Northern Hemisphere countries’ decision to go back on their original promise to trial sanctions and offside at the breakdown from this September.
“You would hate to think we will end up with a situation where we have two games in world rugby. But that could happen. No one wants to see that happen but ultimately, unless there is a degree of reasonableness here, it could. This has to be done and dusted by the end of next year otherwise you will run out of time before the next World Cup.
“We are simply saying to England, Wales and Ireland, ‘give it a fair go because until you have had a universal trial of all the ELVs, you cannot make an informed judgment’. Just to sit back and say we are not trialling them is not in the best interests of the world game.
“What we are seeing is a tremendous test to the IRB’s leadership to stare down England, Wales and Ireland and force them to find competitions to trial particularly the sanctions.”
O’Neill admitted that the Southern Hemisphere countries are frustrated by what he called “those three countries recanting on their original undertaking to find competitions to trial particularly the sanctions”.
He talked of “silly combative conversations” with the Northern Hemisphere nations. “They feel they have been ambushed by these, despite the fact that the IRB set out publicly and clearly a timetable for the trialling. But when the Northern Hemisphere was asked to go ahead, it was like Hiroshima, like an atom bomb was dropped.”
But until that happened, he said, there could be no meaningful dialogue as to the future and the present impasse would continue. But the tough-talking Australian warned of trouble ahead.
“Nothing I say nor South Africa or New Zealand can force the Northern Hemisphere countries to trial these laws in full. The body with the only real clout is the IRB. If they bottle that decision I am not sure what we do because we can’t go back to the old laws.
“The players and spectators here have made it perfectly clear which set of laws they prefer. In the last two weekends, we have seen two wonderful test matches between New Zealand and South Africa under the new laws. We have also seen test matches between Southern and Northern Hemisphere countries played under the old laws and you don’t have to be Einstein to figure out which game is a far more impressive spectacle.”
O’Neill also expressed his alarm over the financial guarantee the IRB is said to be demanding from each host country for future Rugby World Cups starting in 2015. They are seeking $318.13 million, an increase of 150 per cent. Such figures, he conceded, could rule out most rugby playing nations around the world from staging the tournament.