Does the country know a World Cup is taking place?

As someone who has probably watched more of the Rugby World Cup than is good for me I suppose I have rather taken it for granted that the majority of the British public, if not actually glued to their TV sets, are at least aware that the competition is taking place. After all, did not more than 11 million people watch England’s dramatic defeat by Wales on television?

So in order to see how much the UK population actually knew about the sport and competition a research agency decided to commission a UK wide survey to find out. Admittedly this was carried out a week prior to the competition kicking off, and surely some of those professing ignorance cannot have failed to pick up that maybe something was going on.
Nevertheless, though much has been written about the legacy from this World Cup, the results from the survey give an indicator as to just how far rugby has to go before it can evenly begin to rival the round-ball game in popularity.

To begin with, 32% of respondents had no idea that the competition was about to start, and 42.7% of the UK had no idea that the World Cup was actually been hosted in England.
More than half surveyed were unable to guess the correct number of points for a try, and 44% didn’t know that a game lasts 80 minutes.
Apparently a third of Londoners thought that Billy Twelvetrees had to be a fake name and not a current rugby player.
My favourite is that half the UK were unable to pick out Chris Robshaw as the England captain. 22% believed it was still Jonny Wilkinson, and 13.2% guessed that it was the television chef James Martin!
After the debacle against Wales Chris Robshaw probably wishes they were right……..
Mike Miles

http://www.scrumdown.org.uk

mike.miles@scrumdown.org.uk

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What’s a World Cup legacy?

Across the land’s rugby clubs, pubs, bars and front rooms, more than 11 million people watched England’s dramatic defeat by Wales on television. Virtually the same number tuned in for the decisive loss to Australia a week later.
A large percentage of these millions will have been uninitiated in rugby union, but in search of a new sport to enjoy and fresh heroes to follow. But how many will come back? How many will find themselves hooked on the domestic game? The Aviva Premiership kicked off last weekend but unless you were already a rugby aficionado you could be excused for not noticing, such was the volume of media coverage still being given to the England-less World Cup.

Much has been written about the legacy from this World Cup, but “legacy” is a slippery word. And how do you deliver a “legacy” from the worst ever tournament by a host country? “What’s a legacy?” asked Leicester Tigers director of rugby, Richard Cockerill. “The game’s growing all the time and the Premiership’s a great competition. I don’t think it’s going to damage the game. Will it have grown a bit bigger if we’d got to a semi-final or a final and left as heroes instead of having those disappointing performances? Of course.”

Even so, it would take a brave person to argue that the 2015 World Cup will be a success for English rugby, but Steve Grainger, the RFU rugby development officer, is that man. He could point up to the 2,000 people signed up in fan zones to become referees or coaches, a quarter of those at the Manchester fan zone during the England-Uruguay dead rubber. This level of enthusiasm could also point to the untapped enthusiasm for rugby union outside the game’s southern heartlands, and the need to take England “on the road” away from Twickenham.
And since October 2012 the RFU has trained 2,915 new level-two coaches through the QBE Coaching Club, recruited 1,200 young rugby ambassadors and introduced rugby to 400 state secondary schools. But the test must be whether those who have picked up a rugby ball or entered a clubhouse for the first time because of this World Cup are still involved in the game by the time Japan 2019 rolls round.

Putting England’s failure to one side, any kid watching New Zealand or Australia or Japan could not wish for a better illustration of how rugby union, at its best, should be played. But across the mini-rugby pitches of the British Isles will seven year-olds be practising their Nehe Milner-Skudder sidesteps and asking for posters of Juan Imhoff for their bedroom walls? Probably not. But what they do need is more encouragement to run and pass, rather than thud and smash and blunder.

Australia booked their place in the semi-finals in the most dramatic fashion but a thrilling contest was overshadowed by a controversial finale and a debate that highlighted one of the sport’s problems, and the immense barrier preventing rugby union from becoming a truly global sport. The Laws are just too damm complicated! The Laws surely need to be simplified to avoid such confusion and allow the casual “legacy” supporter to engage fully with the sport rather than alienate them.
Rugby’s rules can be impenetrable even for the initiated but understanding the difference between “offside” and “going in from the side”, and even why these are offences is certain to bamboozle those trying to make sense of a game with a plethora of arcane rules and practices.
Mike Miles

http://www.scrumdown.org.uk

mike.miles@scrumdown.org.uk

Japan take on Samoa …and Milton Keynes

Japan……….26
Samoa………6

Attendance: 29,019

France had played Canada in an earlier World Cup game at Stadium MK. The report in The Times included a verdict on the venue. Heritage was “non-existent”, atmosphere was “manufactured but manic, with the full house determined to enjoy a big night out.” Crowd knowledge was “good enough, with a mixture of polite applause and the inevitable Mexican Waves.”Perhaps the prejudice against MK Dons,aka Franchise FC extends beyond the confines of SW9!

The Guardian also had a reporter snooping around the crowd. She pointed out that “if the rugby didn’t hold their attention, they could always cross the road to the multiplex, and there was plenty of shopping nearby.”
She considered Milton Keynes “the perfect locale for witness protection, if the number of people who admit to living there is anything to go by”

Sorry to disappoint her, but we have friends who have lived in Milton Keynes for years, and who were kind enough to offer my wife and I a lift to and from the stadium, so that we forsook the pleasure of the fan-buses or forking out £15 for a park-and-ride site.

And once you get into the stadium it is a delight. Chatting with other fans, most of whom were attending their first game at the ground, they were equally impressed, commenting on the comfort and legroom in the seating. The seats were high-backed and padded, similar to those at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. We were seated in the South Stand, behind one set of posts, where the biggest danger came from flying balls. There was even praise for the toilets, offering wide entrances, space, and hot running water. Such luxuries at a football ground!

After their exploits against South Africa there was no doubt that Japan were the crowd favourites. And this time they had had sufficient recovery time after their loss to Scotland. And once again they showed they are no longer fodder for the big guns, but a team who can bring legitimacy to rugby union’s claim to be a world sport. This match was all about their skill and endeavour.
The match was settled in a first half in which Japan produced a near-flawless performance to lead by 20 points. That left the second half as essentially an exercise in holding their gains, which they did comfortably.
As for Samoa, they were second best throughout, often losing discipline. Three men were yellow-carded.

Incidentally, the attendance of 29,019 was a record for the stadium for any sport.

Japan host the next Rugby World Cup in 2019, and after what was to befall the current hosts later that evening, should hopefully put up a better fight.
Current coach Eddie Jones is leaving after this World Cup. Just so long as they don’t employ Stuart Lancaster in his stead. Though Japan’s forwards coach, one ex-England captain Steve Borthwick, must be a candidate for any future England set-up.

One whinge. The match programme cost £10. A fair amount of editorial, but given that this was Match No 24, it contained not a jot about the previous 23 matches. No results, no table of points or try scorers and no tables for the four pools. It’s called information and in that respect the customer forking out his £10 is being short-changed.
It can be done. Wimbledon charges a similar amount for its programme, but it manages to contain a full statistical coverage up to the previous day’s play.
Mike Miles

mike.miles@scrumdown.org.uk

http://www.scrumdown.org.uk