The 2011 Tri Nations is going ahead regardless of the Rugby World Cup which starts just 11 days after. Surely this will have an effect on the outcome of rugby’s biggest prize. No team has won the Tri-Nations and Rugby World cup in the same year.
It could be argued though that the Tri-Nations is the perfect preparation as competitive games against top flight nations will get players match fit and equipped for the tough challenge of the Rugby World Cup. After all it is said that New Zealand have struggled in the past as their group games have been too easy and when they played tougher teams in RWC knock out stages they were unprepared. This will not be true after a Tri-Nations campaign.
Undoubtedly the main concern of the two competitions being too close is burn out and peaking early. Nations outside of the Tri-Nations will not have this worry as they have been able to train and prepare exactly as they wished, playing the amount of warm up games they feel adequate for their build up to WRC.
England have selected three World Cup warm up games, two against Wales and one versus Ireland. This along with their training camp is how they feel they can best prepare for RWC. Unlike the Tri-Nation teams they have been able to plan and give appropriate time for games and rest.
The question is do these games have the intensity that a competitive TN game will have?
This is where the coach’s role becomes very important. From both angles the team coaches have to decide how much to play players and how much to rest them. They have to be match fit and ready but can’t be too tired to perform at their peak. If a team can’t say now what their starting line up is they will have to rotate players to test out different variations. The teams in the TN have to consider that they have just finished the Super 15 and now have a grueling tournament to play. Due to this players are bound to be rested.
The Springboks definitely think their top players need rest as they have left out 21 frontline players for their first two tests. South Africa have an aging squad as they retain many of the 2007 winning team. Due to this and the harsh schedule they have to be cautious. This will have repercussions. They have already been counted out of contention for the Tri-Nations but they feel the Webb Ellis Cup is the bigger prize. They do run the risk of being unprepared when they put back in their top players but in 2007 they were presented with the TN wooden spoon and went on to win the WRC.
“There’s a fine line because obviously the Tri-Nations is valuable preparation for the World Cup, but you need to be physically ready to add value at the World Cup,” Smit told Reuters.
“One perspective is that no team has won the Tri-Nations and then the World Cup in the same year. The peaking scenario is mostly mental, but you have to make sure your body can follow through on that.
“The team that wins the World Cup will be the one that understands the pressure and uses that to their advantage. I think 25 of the 30 players who won the World Cup in 2007 can still go out there and play for us.”
“You would like to field your best XV for the Tri-Nations, but it depends on how burnt-out they are after Super Rugby,” he said.
“There’s certainly a different stance in this year’s Tri-Nations because you want to win it, but it’s a hell of a tough competition to win at the best of times. You don’t have much choice, more than 22 players are going to play in it and then you’ll see what’s left over and what state they’re in at the end of it.”
New Zealand have hinted they will also be taking a cautious approach to the TN. They have taken a slightly different approach though claiming that their Tri-Nations squad will almost certainly be the same as their Rugby World Cup squad.
“It’ll (the first All Blacks squad) be pretty close to it, I think in the ideal world it should be the same (as the World Cup squad),” Henry told ONE News
This means they may rotate players but on a much smaller scale.
“They just think these guys are machines. You shove in the batteries, charge them up and throw them out there,” Coach Graham Henry told local media.
“They’re just going to fall over. We’ve got to be sensible, work with individuals and get the best out of them.”
Australia seem to be taking a different tactic, they see the Tri-Nations as a competition worth winning. Maybe even at the detriment of their World Cup chances. Their coaching staff have insisted that they will fully commit to the TN and then Rugby World Cup. This maybe because they have only won the tournament twice and see this year as a chance to capitalise on SA & NZ resting players.
“That’s something the guys are aware of and we’re pretty desperate for,” Moore told AAP.
“We haven’t won the Tri Nations or the Bledisloe for a long time, so it’s a great opportunity for us to challenge for that again.
“I know most of the guys in the squad here are desperate to tick that off the list and that’s something we’re firmly focused on in the short term.
“The World Cup is down the track but there’s plenty to do prior to that.”
Australia are most at risk from burn out as eight Queensland Reds players including their influential halfback pairing of Will Genia and Quade Cooper played up until the Super Rugby Final. They rested these players for a warm up game against Samoa and were embarrassingly beaten. They won’t want any repeats of this.
Many powerful people in Southern Hemisphere rugby have scrutinised the need and value of a Tri-Nations in a World Cup year but the revenue from the TV rights to the competition pay these peoples wages so it is too valuable to miss once every four years.
People outside of the three southern hemisphere teams believe the Tri-Nations will have an impact on Rugby World Cup. Nick Easter is of the opinion that this will be an advantage to other countries in RWC.
“This time the northern hemisphere teams might have a little bit of an advantage over the southern hemisphere teams in terms of the scheduling because we’ve had a break,” said Easter.
“They might be a little over-cooked, while for us it’s just like heading into a normal season. At our clubs we’d be doing pre-season at this time and start playing in September.”
“I thought they might play each other as warm up games like we do with other Six Nations teams, but with the same sort of warm up schedule. I hope it leaves them tired.”
What happens in future World Cup years is still up for debate but the Tri-Nations are going ahead this year and it may have a negative impact for the countries competing. This year’s tournament has been reduced to 6 games but for their Rugby World Cup chances it maybe should be reduced to one game against each team. Finances obviously have a big say in this so the relevant Rugby boards will ultimately make the decision. If South Africa forfeit their Tri-Nation chances for World Cup glory again, Australia, New Zealand & Argentina in the future will surely follow suite. This will diminish the value of the TN and may endanger its future.
Wrote by Kooga Rugby for Rugby World Cup