Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 19 October 2019

Uruguay win a great advert for how Rugby World Cup looks to close the gap, not the door on emerging teams

There is an argument for a reduced 10-team tournament, but that would really diminish the spirit of expanding the game

If I had any personal doubt if my love of Fiji had diminished after three years since leaving the islands, then my central nervous system was not on the same page during the Uruguay game.

My nerves were fretted as I watched a heroic Uruguay performance upset the coconut cart and deliver one of the biggest upsets in Rugby World Cup history.

Fiji were not really at the races. They had a few excuses - the four-day turnaround after the exhausting Australian defeat, and their entire first choice back-row unavailable, including the concussed Peceli Yato after the tackle by Reece Hodge, who has since been banned for three weeks.

However they should have absorbed that all, got a good win, and move on to Georgia then a possibly seismic game against Wales.

I’m so disappointed for the entire group. Now all they can do is control the controllables, go for two wins from their remaining fixtures and see if that will be enough to get them through.

For Uruguay, they will be buoyed by this amazing victory but they now suffer the four-day turnaround and I’m afraid that will mean their opponents Georgia will have a couple of upper hands.

I still think the game has a huge gap between top eight to 10 and the rest, and there is an argument for a reduced 10-team tournament.

But that would really diminish the spirit of expanding the game, and I’m not for that. I don’t like seeing big mismatches and the New Zealand v Namibia match, for example, will probably go over a century of points for the All Blacks.

But I’d rather try to think of ways to close the gap than cast the lower-ranked teams away.

I didn’t enjoy the result of the game, but the joy from the Uruguay team was heart-warming and good for the soul. Just what the World Cup is here for.

Ben Ryan coached Fiji to Olympic gold in Rio in 2016, and won the Dubai Rugby Sevens four times - twice with England, and twice with Fiji

Updated: September 26, 2019 11:21 AM

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