Australia attack IRB plans for a World Cup every two years

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The Independent Online

A radical proposal to play the Rugby World Cup every two years instead of four should be resisted because it threatens to damage the game's showpiece event, the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) said yesterday.

The International Rugby Board (IRB) revealed on Thursday that it will consider the proposal at a global forum in England next week.

The plan to increase the frequency of World Cups is one of four options the IRB is looking at as part of its strategy to establish a playing calendar that satisfies all "stakeholders" in the modern game.

ARU chief executive Matt Carroll said Australia were open to new ideas that would benefit the game but believed increasing the number of World Cups was not the answer.

"The ARU's position is the Rugby World Cup should only be every four years," Carroll told reporters yesterday.

"It is the crown jewel and any earlier or shorter period between them would be damaging, both to the Rugby World Cup and also to the match programmes and the individual nations."

The IRB is also considering establishing a new inter-hemisphere championship, which would be staged either two years before and after World Cups, or in each of the three years between World Cups.

The other option is to stick with the current format of having a World Cup every four years but introducing an integrated international season, between September and November, whereby teams from both the northern and southern hemisphere would play all their games at the same time.

Carroll said Australia's preference was to create a common season so existing tournaments such as the Six Nations and Tri-Nations were unaffected.

"Inter-hemisphere tournaments again could be damaging to Rugby World Cup," Carroll said. "The rest of the match programmes, the Six Nations, Tri-Nations are obviously very important, so they have got to be worked in. Anything else we do needs to have quality games and be meaningful."

Also on the agenda is the prospect of cutting the number of teams competing at the 2011 World Cup due to be held in New Zealand from 20 to 16.

Attending the forum will be IRB Council members and representatives from IRB Member Unions, clubs from all over the world, as well as players, coaches, managers and IRB management along with commercial agents and consultants within the game.