R Stuff
Rugby Championship 'for southern softies'
By Raga House | Mon 13 Aug, 2018 15:45

He belittled Super Rugby and now UK rugby critic Stephen Jones has turned his barbs to the Rugby Championship, labelling it "the second division of the global game".

A week after suggesting the champion Crusaders would struggle against Europe's best club teams, Jones now feels the southern hemisphere's major test tournament sits in the shadow of the Six Nations.

He said "facts and not circumstantial evidence" backed up his claims, starting with the world rankings.

New Zealand are an indisputable No 1 but it's a big drop to Australia at fifth, South Africa sixth and Argentina 10th. There was more solidity in the Six Nations teams that had world No 2 Ireland, third-placed Wales, fourth-placed England, No 7 France with Italy 14th.

"Ah well, those southern softies will catch up one day," Jones chided in his latest Sunday Times column in the UK.

He did have some begrudging praise for the All Blacks.

"Naturally, we must exclude New Zealand from all criticism, as ever, as they are cruising along. The statistics are magnificent if you are Kiwi but not so good if you are trying to market the competition as a fierce event," Jones wrote, noting that the All Blacks had lost just two of 33 test in the tournament.

They were now boosted by the return of Kieran Read and Brodie Retallick and their biggest problem was choosing between Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo'unga.

"... a problem anybody would love to have," Jones noted before having a dig at Barrett.

"Barrett can be brilliant but can also be led by the nose into trouble, as the Lions found out."

Jones said the Rugby Championship was in need of "proper contests".

"In six seasons the average attendance has dipped from just under 46,000 to just over 30,000, and if that carries on they will be playing in a phone box inside a decade.

"Argentina have won only three of their 33 games, a dreadful return after the momentum they brought with them on being admitted to the tournament."

Jones felt if there was to be an upset it could come this Saturday in Sydney when Australia host the All Blacks though he felt the Wallabies were troubled by an inherent softness and he wondered about their engine room.

"Adam Coleman and the young giant Izack Rodda are enormous and athletic. But do you need two giraffes against the All Blacks? Australia need a pair of gorillas."

Looking ahead, Jones senses a competitive Rugby World Cup next year.

"The signs are that come Japan 2019, New Zealand will not be the only team in the race but the next month or two must reveal proper contenders, second-ranking event or not.

"New Zealand will surely come out ahead but the world needs evidence that the demolishing of the black machine is on the horizon."

 - Stuff

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