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There are significant reasons for the global rugby buzz as we enter April 2015, five and a half months to the start of the eighth Rugby World Cup in England and Wales. The buzz translates to increased coverage in print and broadcast media worldwide.
The chronology follows:
- Summer 2014: Women’s Rugby World Cup, Paris – The most successful, most attended, and most viewed WRWC in history. The French Rugby Federation staged a magnificent show with precision planning, warm hospitality, and the semis and final played inside Jean Bouin Stadium which, at 25,000 capacity, represented the right size for the event. The play among the teams was outstanding, including the upset of 2014 when Ireland upended undefeated New Zealand, denying the Black Ferns another WRWC. In addition, Magali Harvey of Canada, turned in a spectacular try against France that was nominated for Try of the Year. England’s Red Roses emerged as worthy world champions.
- Autumn 2014: Northern Hemisphere Tours, Europe – Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Argentina traveled north to play test matches against the Six Nations’ XVs. Only the All Blacks emerged victorious in all of their games while the Wallabies and Springboks suffered surprising losses to Ireland. Wales beat South Africa and England defeated Australia. The myth of southern hemisphere dominance was shattered, and gave hopes for European sides in the forthcoming Rugby World Cup.
- Autumn 2014: World Rugby Name Change, Dublin - In the works for many years, World Rugby rebranded from its IRB nomenclature. It was a total makeover with name, logo, and modern graphics on the web site. The term ”International Rugby Board” was rarely if ever used in spoken word or in print, most preferring the signature abbreviation, “IRB.” But the shortened version left out the most important word – “Rugby” – a negative solved by the new World Rugby name. Further, with rugby proliferating internationally (fastest growing team sport in the USA), it was time to acknowledge in full its global reach.
- Fall 2014 and Winter 2015: HSBC Sevens Circuit – After the completion of the first four of nine tournaments on the circuit, the media have paid more attention than in the past because of the Olympic qualification possibilities for 2016 (This has also been true for the 2014/2015 Women’s Sevens events to a lesser degree.) The media cite the point tally that changes after each tournament as the top five teams jockey for the four secure Olympic spots. Nationally, the improved play of the US Eagles – especially, their fourth place showing in Las Vegas this past February – has buoyed expectations for the future.
- Winter 2015: Six Nations Tournament, Europe – A three nation, ding-dong battle to the fifth round end, when all three had a chance to take the crown. Ireland won on point differential, replicating their 2014 victory. Ireland, England, and Wales finished 4-1; each nation defeating the other one time (i.e.; England over Wales, Ireland over England, and Wales over Ireland.). With staggered television times on Saturday, record tournament viewing occurred during the long day of play.
Judgmentally, the upcoming Rugby World Cup will benefit from these prior events, attracting more fans to attend and also to view on television the spectacular final to fourteen-months of exciting rugby.