Former Preston Grasshoppers player and ex-director of rugby at Lightfoot Green writes every week for the Evening Post
It is June 2030. Satellite TV’s “The Rugby Channel” have won exclusive rights to screen the new international rugby calendar.
Host Clive Inverdale and his panel of experts are hosting 12 hours of coverage from the game’s new showpiece tournament. Over to the studio….
Clive: Welcome to Shanghai for the inaugural round of the Rugby Nations Championship sponsored by US Beer Inc. The smooth beer for the true rugger fan.
There is big excitement at the start of this new international tournament, which replaces the defunct Six Nations and Rugby Championship following their demise in 2025.
With the end of professional team rugby in the Celtic Nations and Australia and the banning of the game on medical grounds in Japan, Italy and Argentina, we are left with the four big guns.
The teams of England Globetrotters, French Mercenaries, New Zealand Islanders and the US Eagles have all recruited well ahead of the campaign with some interesting movements during the draft.
One of the big stories in the off-season surrounded the re-formed South African Springboks who will hopefully join the tournament next year if they can raise the $1bn participation agreement fee following the liquidation of the former bankrupt SARFU.
I’m joined by new England Globetrotters captain Waisele Lomu. Looking forward to this season?
Waisele: Yeah bro, it’s gonna be huge. I have dreamed about leading England since being recruited from the islands to attend the Barnet RFC Development High School as a 15-year-old”.
Clive: I’m also joined by the new captain of the French Mercenaries, Morne Van Der Merve. You’re no doubt excited at the prospect of leading your team for the first time, Morne?
Morne: “Yeah for sure. When it became clear that the SA franchise was not going to happen I had to quickly find a new country. Having once holidayed in Reunion, I met the residency qualification to play for France. I have dreamt about this moment for weeks and it will be a real honour and a privilege to lead the team”.
Clive: New Head of Global Rugby, Bruce Sharp-Operator is here. A new dawn Bruce?
Bruce: “This is a landmark day for Global Rugby. We start a new chapter in what I call rugby’s equivalent of Formula 1. After Round One in Shanghai we will then move on to future rounds in Tokyo, Singapore, Dubai, Auckland, Chicago, New York, London and Paris before our finals day in the very important Indian market in Delhi.
Clive: Some would say the game has sold its soul Bruce. What would you say to them?
Bruce: I’d say get on board with what we are doing. After all traditions are all well and good but they don’t pay the players’ salaries. We have just signed the biggest TV deal in the history of mankind and as a result this will allow us to take the game on the road to all those mega markets where we can continue to grow the game’s appeal.
Clive: Ticket sales have been disappointing so far Bruce with only 5,000 sold for today’s opening round. Some have pointed to the cost of tickets at $500 as an issue, others to the crowd problems experienced in both France and England recently for supporters staying away. Is the size of the crowd a problem?
Bruce: Not at all. We’d say that lower the crowd less chance there is for trouble. More importantly the opening games are being screened in 120 countries around the world. This will ensure the biggest TV audience for games ever. After all, the interactive TMO option via your TV handsets only works if people are watching at home.
Clive: I’m delighted to be joined by former NFL legend and new England Head Coach Chuck Lombardi Jr . Lots of law changes this year Chuck, how are you getting to grips with them?
Chuck: The removal of scrums is a big positive, whilst having 25 interchange options per quarter will allow us to bring on specialist Offence and Defence players depending on what happens on each play. This will ensure we get our processes spot on.
Clive: Have your preparations been affected by the ongoing anti-corruption scandal that has rocked the sport?
Chuck: Not at all. The banning of pitch-side spot betting for players is disappointing but something we will all just have to get on with.
Clive: How do you view your squad recruitment during the summer? Has the breakaway from the RFU by the Southern Rugby League and the withdrawal of their players from international rugby been an issue?
Chuck: Not really. Our recruitment has been generally where we wanted it to be. Getting Schalk Du Preez, Jean-Pierre Wallet and Bruce Campese are big for us. All three have come through our nationalisation program, having gone through the residential qualifying period of 12 consecutive days’ phone-in via Skype. They are well up to speed with our processes.
Clive: We did hope to be joined by someone from the New Zealand franchise but alas at the last minute they appear to have pulled out due to contractual issues.
Never mind…on with the show! We’ll be back right after these product messages…