At the end of the second round of the Rugby League World Cup, the average winning margin is 35.5 points.
Recent rule changes to encourage attacking rugby have almost certainly contributed towards this large margin. Large winning margins have also been a factor in the NRL since the 6 again rule was introduced. This rule in particular makes it harder for opposition to wrestle back momentum once their opposition has gained an upper hand however any calls to reduce the number of teams in the World Cup are missing the point of the World Cup.
“The Rugby League World Cup should be reduced from 16 teams to 8”, wrote journalist Phil Rothfield in the Sydney based Sunday Telegraph. “Some of the teams at the tournament are no stronger than NSW Cup sides and all the blowouts over the weekend were hard to watch”
This view was later referenced by fellow Daily Telegraph journalist Dean Ritchie, who stated “there are now growing calls for the event to be cut back to eight to ten nations or be revamped where minnow nations are separated from tier one countries”. Can it really be classed as growing calls when said calls are coming from your colleague a few desks down?
When interviewed on 5 Live BBC recently, Victor Radley was very clear in his response to the criticism of the one sided score lines, stating “these people are getting together in camp (to celebrate) their culture…it’s more than just that game. You can’t just push them out of the World Cup because of those score lines. That’s just wrong. It’s not about the score line. It’s not about that game. It’s about growing rugby league, it’s about families”.
Radley later went on to say “I don’t think people who are waking up and checking the score lines opinion means much to these families. (Players) deserve to be here and they deserve to play the game for their country”.
The World Cup is a celebration of the game. The universal cheer when Ben Jones-Bishop scored Jamaica’s first ever World Cup try was a moment to remember. Kasey Badger becoming the first woman to referee a men’s World Cup match when Tonga took on Wales… these are the moments that should be written about. Australia demolishing Scotland 84-0 should be a celebration of just how talented the Kangaroos’ side are and help create demand to have them play more often.
Tonga provided international rugby league with a desperately needed shot in the arm at the 2017 World Cup. In 1999, the kingdom were beaten 74-0 by New Zealand. If the same kind of short-sighted thinking was implemented back then, would we see Tonga become the team they are now? This is the team who became the only new team to beat Australia in more than 70 years, after beating both New Zealand and Great Britain beforehand.
International Rugby League Chairman Troy Grant addressed the media recently and stated he was “not concerned” about blowout score lines.
Aggressive for 80 minutes.
— Rugby League World Cup 2021 (@RLWC2021) October 25, 2022
“I’m celebrating new nations playing and being embraced and the wonderful talent we have on show and I’m not concerning myself with the scores,” Grant said from England.
While crowds have been lackluster at some games, the World Cup has provided fans with a carnival atmosphere where cultures from all around the world can get together and watch the game of Rugby League. For this reason, it should be enjoyed and praised by fans and journalists alike.