010. 19 Things About 2019 #10

#10 The Rugby World Cup Bronze Final is cruel and unnecessary


The skinny

The 47th and penultimate match of the Rugby World Cup, between the losing semi-finalists, serves no purpose except ticket sales. It’s a helluva cruel thing to make the losing semi-finalists back up the next week to play a match they really didn’t want to be playing, and which isn’t remembered beyond the day itself.

It should be replaced with a festival match, with proceeds going to charity.


Why this matters

The Bronze Final is played the day before the Grand Final, pitting the two losing semi-finalists against each other to determine 3rd and 4th places.

But. Why?

It’s really about having one more match for selling tickets. And those tickets are sold in the bundles you have to buy if you really, really want certainty to get tickets to the matches you really want to see, that is, the semi-finals and final.

It’s a shake down.

Here’s my counter-proposal: make the 47thmatch a festival match (think Barbarians vs Barbarians) made up of players from those countries not appearing in the Final.

At the end of the pools, you know 12 of those teams, so you can pick 36 players straight away and ask them to stay on.

After the Quarter-Finals, you’ve got another four teams out, so choose another dozen.

After the Semi-Finals, another two teams gone, and choose a final six.

That’s 54 players from around the world hanging out together, learning from each other, playing for the joy of it, and without any nationalistic nonsense. Just the rugby.

For coaches, bring in some of the retired World Cup winners.  Sir Graham Henry versus Sir Clive Woodward would be a thing.  I’d pay for that just to see the televised team selection process – turn and turn about, just like primary school.

And the instructions to the coaches would be to make it a show case of attacking running rugby.  Ball in hand, running from deep.

And all the proceeds go to that year’s charity: in Japan in 2019 that would be ChildFund Pass It Back.

I know, I know. It’s a brilliant idea, so it’ll never happen because World Rugby something something.



If you’re really interested in declaring a 3rdplace winner, here’s the funny thing: in seven of the eight Rugby World Cups so far, the winner of the Bronze Final is the team that lost their semi-final against the team that went on to win the Grand Final.

  • 1987 Wales (lost to New Zealand in semi, beat Australia in Bronze)
  • 1991 New Zealand (lost to Australia in semi, beat Scotland in Bronze)
  • 1995 France (lost to South Africa in semi, beat England in Bronze)
  • 1999 South Africa (lost to Australia in semi, beat New Zealand in Bronze)
  • 2007 Argentina (lost to South Africa in semi, beat France in Bronze)
  • 2011 Australia (lost to New Zealand in semi, beat Wales in Bronze)
  • 2015 South Africa (lost to New Zealand in semi, beat Argentina in Bronze)

The single exception was 2003, when New Zealand won the bronze beating France. The Grand Final winner was England (which had defeated France in their semi-final).

So if you really want a 3rd place medal, give it to the team that lost their semi-final to the eventual Grand Final winner.

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