World Cup-winning coach shares rugby ideas

Monday April 23, 2018 Written by Published in Rugby Union

Former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry has expanded further on his idea of a weight-restricted Rugby World Cup, saying that it would have the chance to increase interest and participation in the sport.

 

When thinking of rugby, most tend to think of the traditional powerhouses such as New Zealand, England and South Africa.

However, in his travels, Henry has seen a huge amount of interest in the sport in countries where some might think rugby isn’t played.

He recounted a time when he went to a first XV match in Sri Lanka that was refereed by Johnathan Kaplan, who blew the whistle in the 2011 World Cup final, an event attended by 27,000 fans.

“Rugby is very important to them, even though they are ranked around 40th in the world,” Henry said.

“We want these countries, like Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, Cook Islands to be competitive.”

He raised the idea during his discussion with Cook Islands Rugby Union (CIRU) president Sean Smith on Thursday, saying he believed there would be a lot of interest. And a World Cup featuring non-traditional nations could do a great deal to boost future participation, he added.

Outside of that, he also wondered if World Rugby could do more, in terms of funding, to help a country such as the Cook Islands.

“There are a number of young children playing the game, and they seem to be fairly athletic. I’m not sure what World Rugby’s contribution is to countries such as the Cook Islands, but maybe there is an opportunity to increase the funding if there’s such a big gap between football and rugby.”

During his discussion with Smith, the World Cup-winning coach touched on a number of other issues.

They spoke about the local competition, and what could be done to better develop the level of competition experienced by players, coaches and referees.

Getting in the outer islands involved was another talking point, as well as how to keep in contact with the huge number of players who live in Australia and New Zealand.

“Getting them involved in Cook Islands rugby, it’s easy to talk about, but hard to do,” Henry said.

“They’re young guys that aren’t great at communicating, so it’s a challenge.”

The test match at the end of June, where the Cook Islands will play the winner of the Asian Championship (expected to be Hong Kong, who are ranked 22nd in the world), was discussed in terms of preparation.

Graham said he was encouraged following discussions about the number of sports that the youngsters on the island are playing, saying studies had shown that this led to players being better at their chosen sport once they grew up.

“That’s gospel apparently. I think that’s good too, it’s good for them. Even playing at a higher age group, playing against better athletes and players, it gives them a different experience that will be beneficial later in their career.”

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