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News & Comment

James Lawton: Rugby World Cup legacy must be more bums on seats


Talk of gouging at the Rugby World Cup box office is worrying for all those who see the 2015 tournament as the perfect platform for the game’s graduation as a fully fledged and reasonably savvy protagonist in the front rank of professional sport.

This was certainly not the picture portrayed at Twickenham last weekend, when a superb collection of world-class players fought out the Heineken Cup semi-final between Toulon and Saracens before a pitifully slight audience.

If the great rival football had a show of such quality to present – and with such a competitive edge – it would surely have explored market potential a little more thoroughly.

There is some anxious discussion of the need to meet the financial demands of the world governing body. However, such accountancy should be running second to the need for the kind of popular impact which could shape the next decade of a game desperate for significant expansion.

Much more encouraging, though, is the abandonment of the appalling programming of the weaker nations in the last World Cup in New Zealand. It was a scandal that undermined the integrity of the entire tournament.

The new deal will also enhance the kind of spectacle that might win many more new followers for the game, especially if they can meet the price of a ticket.