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2011 is in place and 'that is it'
Tuesday March 06, 2007
By Wynne Gray

The media strategy was all about Rugby World Cup 2011. It was locked in and anyone attending the press conference yesterday expecting any other juicy declarations about the state of the oval-ball game left the room disappointed.

There was a slight deviation when Syd Millar, chairman of the International Rugby Board, swerved into some comments about possible law changes and the influence of referees.

And his chief executive, Mike Miller, mentioned Argentina but shelved any significant comment about their place in the rugby world.

Further comment would be left until today; this conference was all about Eden Park and RWC 2011.

Syd Millar said plans for Eden Park exceeded the original tournament tender and "we are very happy with what we have heard".

NZRU chairman Jock Hobbs hoped the proposed two-year construction of the South Stand would start about next March and the ground would still be able to accommodate matches during the renovations.

The seventh World Cup will be held in September/October with 20 teams in a four-pool format. "There is no thought of changing it; 2011 is in place and that is it," Millar said.

Seedings for the tournament were up for discussion though, with debate to come about whether to use the world ranking system, the present system of where sides finished in the previous World Cup or a hybrid combination of both.

Syd Millar said it was just life that three leading nations - Argentina, Ireland and France - all ended up in the same section of this year's World Cup. "It is a difficult pool, a hard pool, but so be it."

Mike Miller said the aim was to have more pools with that sort of strength in subsequent World Cups.

Asked about comments attributed to him in South African newspapers last week that Argentina would be a good fit in an expanded Tri-Nations test series, the IRB chief executive chose to make a correction.

"People may have printed that I said they [Argentina] should be included but that is not what I said. In any event, we are here to talk about the Rugby World Cup."

This was the IRB's agenda and no pesky journalists were going to alter that programme. However, Syd Millar did allow himself a peek into the type of game that might be seen at the New Zealand event in four years' time.

Experimental laws had been tested and analysed in trials in South Africa in a bid to make rugby easier to understand for the players, referees and spectators. Any law changes would be made after this year's tournament in France, Wales and Scotland.

"The biggest problem is the tackle and post-tackle situation. It is difficult to referee but that is an area where we think we can effect some change," said Syd Millar.

"I can't tell you what the game will be like in 10 years' time but it's important we do not remove the fair contest for the ball, otherwise we have a predictable game."

The IRB chairman accepted there was concern about the number of instructions issued by referees in the modern game and that was an issue under review.

He chided the sporting media for not being more familiar with details on funding for Pacific Island rugby.

"We have been criticised for doing nothing in the Islands," he said.

The opposite was true. Funding had been given to those nations for provincial tournaments, a Six Nations series and performance initiatives.

Figures would be available today when the IRB's annual report was handed out.