Rugby Union: System under attack by coach

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The Independent Online
IN THE cold light of Sunday morning, the England coach, Clive Woodward, was able to reflect more on the organisation of the World Cup which pitted his hardened professionals against the willing, but hopelessly outclassed amateurs of the Netherlandsand his verdict was an unequivocal: no more, writes David Llewellyn.

"My personal view is there should be no more qualifiers," said Woodward, reflecting on the 110-0 annihilation of the courageous Dutch team at Huddersfield's McAlpine Stadium the day before. "Every country should come to the World Cup tournament.

"But we should have three different competitions within the tournament, all being run at the same time, with countries being seeded on how strong they are. I am sure that rather than going to Korea for the repechage the Netherlands would rather come to the World Cup next year and play in a second or third tier of matches against opponents that they have a good chance of beating."

Not surprisingly Woodward's sentiments were an echo of what the Netherlands coach, Geoff Old, had expressed two days before the match.

"This World Cup is the first under full professionalism and it is already showing the gulf between the pros and the amateurs," said England's coach.

"I am sure that this subject has been discussed by the authorities. The solution would seem to me to be to set up three competitions in the 2003 tournament, a Cup, a Plate and a Shield for the top tier, second rank and developing countries. At least countries like us would then have something to play for and we would be doing so against sides of similar standard. The game needs a global structure, an international programme which incorporates the northern and southern hemispheres."

Woodward said: "A World Cup is for everybody. There is a lot of time and money being spent on qualification when everyone could be getting together."

For all that, though, Woodward was happy to admit that the Netherlands game had been a good exercise although he did concede that he did not expect to be playing the Dutch again.

n The Argentinian Pumas headed for Wales yesterday after a 34-14 defeat by France and looking to win the last of their three-Test European tour next weekend.