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Rugby World Cup 2003: Iestyn stars in opener.

BY the time you cast your eyes over this, the pool stages of Rugby World Cup will be three quarters done.

And Wales, hopefully, will be safely ensconced in the last eight, competing in the business end of the tournament.

But there is already a dossier full of issues that the game's administrators have to tackle, if they want to expand and develop rugby union into a truly global sport.

I must confess that the odds appear to have been stacked heavily against the smaller nations.

They already face a hugely uneven financial environment, and the gap is growing greater by the day, so France in 2007, could be an even more restricted and confined competition with the likes of Tonga and Fiji fortunate to be able to attend, let alone compete with any seriousness.

We have also heard, what I admittedly thought were defensive and pre-emptive whinges from the likes of Italian coach John Kirwan, about the imbalance in recovery periods between matches.

The big guys again have enjoyed the luxury of a full week between games, while the likes of Italy have had to play twice within seven days, with far weaker playing resources.

From the evidence of matches I have watched, I also believe that the refereeing has clearly favoured the stronger teams, with the likes of Romania , Georgia and Tonga not afforded the same level of respect as the Englands and All Blacks of this world.

When Romania played the reigning world champions Australia last week, the underdogs drove hard and crossed the Wallaby line, with the camera showing the gleaming smile of a try scorer, but no, not even a video replay to cast judgement.

Imagine Clive Woodward accepting that in the final against Australia as Neil Back crashed over, courtesy of his pack!

It is tough enough already for the small guys treated in an inferior way seemingly by the organisers, and the final straw, even the referees turning their backs and feathering their future nests with the hope of travelling to the grand rugby nations of the world.

If you thought that Welsh rugby had issues to face, they are probably nothing to compare with the real dilemmas facing the world game.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 25, 2003
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Next Article:Rugby World Cup 2003: Ireland are fired up for Argentina.

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