RWC series: Je prédis…. j’accuse

So what money on Australia beating England in the qualifying game this Saturday?

A quid to a knob of kangaroo poo that the Poms will get the win. No point talking about form, the squads, the coaches, the strategies, the injuries. Talk about the dollars.

Rugby needs TV. TV needs advertising revenue. ITV currently can charge 300,000 pounds per 30 second advertising spot on a game with England playing in it. That’s 600,000 pounds a minute. Just shy of $NZ1.5 million per minute. The price of the 30 second spot moves with the audience levels. Take England out of the match and the price of a 30 second spot drops south of 200,000 pounds, as I am reliably informed. Every 30 second spot they can sell on the back of England playing is essential revenue. ITV needs England to get through at least to the final, as they may well point out to IRB. Perhaps their contract with IRB already has the England contingency built in? In which case ITV scarcely need to tell IRB how important it is for England to get through the qualifiers and into the final. To quantify it, losing England is losing almost $NZ500,000 revenue per advertising minute. Having Wales replace them in the finals would be small consolation to ITV; the big audience is English.

And one step back, if the price of the 30 second spot drops dramatically it is simply that the advertisers and sponsors value that exposure as being much less without England. So a loss of England dulls the enthusiasm of major advertisers and sponsors not only for English rugby but for International rugby. The IRB have done marvellously well in twenty years in building support from major advertisers and sponsors to financially support rugby. They do not need a wheel to fall off now. They do not want that momentum to be dulled by the early exit of England.

Then move into the merchandise. Businesses have paid rights to manufacture merchandise. There will be a warehouse full of England rugby jerseys, jester hats, flags, song sheets for ‘swing low sweet chariot’; if England drops out at the qualifiers then Arfer Daley will be right on the dog and bone to collect a nice little earner.

And there is just the development of the sport of rugby in England. That’s a tough ask in soccer crazy England, but we saw the public reaction in Japan when the brave blossoms beat South Africa. Victory is good for profiles. English world domination in rugby would lift the rugby profile up the ladder against ‘remember 1966’ England soccer. But drop out in the qualifiers and England rugby will get drawn and quartered by the mocking media.

No, an England exit at the qualifiers just does not bear thinking about around the IRB board table. Even for a French Chairman, Bernard Lapasset. Monsieur Lapasset was elected Chairman of the all-powerful IRB in 2007. Why does that year ring a bell? Oh yes, Cardiff, quarter finals of RWC, English referee, French team, inexplicable disparity in the awarding of penalties, inexplicable failure of all officials to see a metre-forward pass for the crucial winning try and a most unlikely French win. Anglo-Franco relations seem to be amicable in the rugby world.

So monsieur Lapasset: Australia vs England? A must-win game for England. A must-win game for the IRB coffers. So will the game be allowed to play as it plays? Will ze ball bounce where ze ball will bounce?

Sorry cobber, I reckon you ‘ockers might be dog tucker before you run on the pitch. If its not already mentally noted in the ‘do not minute this’ section of a ‘this did not happen’ IRB meeting, then surely it has been whispered over a cognac in the Club. But don’t make a fuss me old mate and they might toss you a Welsh bone next game; but that depends if Fiji beat Wales first so the Poms are already secure.

Monsieur Lapasset, je prédis victoire à notre époque pour l”Anglaise;  j’accuse.

Prove me wrong this time, Bernie, and I might concede that Wayne Barnes just had a very, very bad day on the 6th October 2007. Either that or one of the AB’s had slept with his wife.

footnote: the most important selection of this game has now been made. The match referee will be Romain Poite. Monsieur Poite, that sounds a bit French doesn’t it?.

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