JJ Harmse

I remain in Taranaki nation at the minute, with New Plymouth on the New Zealand west coast the venue of Thursday’s clash in between the U.S.A. and Russia.

A lot has been made from the video game and although the Cold War in between the countries might be a distant memory, but something was clear before kick-off, there was not going to be a lot of love given out.

Taranaki also won the Ranfurly Guard recently and let me inform you, this is rugby nation. Driving from Wellington to New Plymouth, a long winding road with numerous little towns, it was clear that everybody learns about the Rugby World Cup.

Flags are everywhere and there was the odd green and gold Springbok banner and flag to be seen.

One of the other reasons for my see to the Taranaki was to go to the launch of the World Cup Sevens competition, to be kept in Russia in 2013.

We saw a contingent of Russian heavies attending the launch, with Russia’s deputy Prime Minister, Alexander Zhukov, providing some genuine meaning to his federal government’s support of rugby and in this case, Sevens rugby and the hosting of the World Cup.

Russia will be hosting a lot of global events in the coming years, with FIFA’s Soccer World Cup in 2018 the top of the list.

It was intriguing listening to Kingsley Jones, a Welshman training the Russian group at the moment and getting his take on the capabilities of the Russian professional athletes.

“They are strong ball carriers and great professional athletes with a healthy hunger for rugby,” he revealed.

We have been hearing now for lots of years about the USA being the sleeping giants of the game, however it seems that things are stalling in the land of the brave and the house of the totally free.

Russia on the other hand will get a genuine boost with hosting the World Cup Sevens and we might in fact see the Bears and not the Eagles, emerge as a new team on the up.

There is obviously enormous interest in the way Georgia and Romania are setting about their company on the planet Cup and if Russia could also emerge as a strong contender at Test level, we might not have to wait that long to see the 6 Nations extended.

That is naturally if the establishment of rugby allows this to occur.

At every World Cup we realise just how improperly world rugby is dealing with the likes of Fiji, Samoa and Georgia. At every World Cup we hear promises of a much better day for those countries, with more video games being guaranteed and the IRB contributing to their monetary contributions of the high performance centres in those regions.

Yet, it is almost inevitable that come the next World Cup, the groups comprising the 6 Nations and Tri-Nations are the ones that are the have’s and those beyond those competitions the have not’s.

Let us hope that come England in 2015, not just have the similarity Russia have actually ended up being real competitors, but the Pacific teams are exposed to regular rugby.

The worry of upsets on the most significant phase should never prevent the IRB from continuing their deal with the minnows. In the end, we will have a better phenomenon if 16 of the 20 groups at the next tournament are actually good enough to win a match.

Read JJ every Sunday in Connection.

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