1987 World Cup: The first experience that provoked rejection and paved the way for professional rugby

After one hundred and forty-seven days it will begin The tenth edition of the Rugby World Cup. Why has a sport that has been played for more than 100 years only reached double digits in the history of world competition par excellence? The first answer is that rugby was the last of the mass-produced sports to become professional. He waited until September 1995. But there is another reason: the rugby authorities, who have monopolized for decades the so-called “home unions”, that is, the founding unions (England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland), They considered it necessary to stay away from any huge event that could be confused with money. That strategy included not participating in the Olympics. But yes to the tournament that brought them together, the Five Nations, which France joined between 1910 and 1931 to return for good in 1947.

December marks the 40th anniversary of what was the embryo of the first World Cup, held in 1987. The idea did not come from the north, but from the south, when both the Australian and New Zealand federations wrote a letter suggesting that a company, Rugby World Cup Limited, should organize the World Championship. Two years later, the International Rugby Board (today’s World Rugby) accepted the proposal and decided to stage the first edition in 1987 with headquarters in the two paying countries, Australia and New Zealand. He determined that the contested trophy was named after William Webb Ellis, considered the inventor of rugby. The English had to keep something for themselves.

Previously, in the 1950s and 1960s, the IRB received other similar proposals, twice submitted by France. In any case, the parent entity of rugby described them as “crazy”. International competition countries were exclusively limited to the Five Nations, in tours or the Lions’ visit to the three powers in the south, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa,

Hugo Porta, Los Pumas’ 80s banner

In 1985, only eight countries were full members of the IRB. the four unions; New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, which joined in 1949; and France, which did so in 1978. And it was decided that the first World Cup tournament would be held by these eight, with the exception of South Africa, which was excluded by the international boycott of the apartheid regime, in addition to 9 guests. Argentina was in this last group, thanks to its history and the wonderful team it had at the time and the efforts of the President of the United Arab Republic, Carlos Tozzi, who later gained a seat at the IRB’s decision table. The Soviet Union declined the invitation and Samoa was not included, which caused a strong debate at the time, especially in the South Pacific bloc, which was only represented by Fiji and Tonga. The other people selected were from Zimbabwe, Canada, the United States, Japan, Italy and Romania.

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News of the Pumas’ participation in the World Cup was far from receiving wide support in the domestic rugby environment. Criticism ranged from the amateur view that the competition required professional preparation – several players quit the national team for this reason – to the fact that it could not be considered a World Cup because South Africa were an exception. While the country suffered – what a surprise! – Inflationary process, instability due to the carapintada uprisings, the massacre of the Buenos Aires police in Ingeniero Budge and shaken with the victories of Gabriela Sabatini, on May 24 the Pumas made their World Cup debut, nothing could be worse. In a memorable performance, they lost 28-9 to Fiji and this defeat effectively led to first round elimination.

In less than 5 months, the party will start in France and the show will be to lift this 38.1 cm high cup, which weighs 3 kilograms.

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Amber Cross

"Music buff. Unapologetic problem solver. Organizer. Social media maven. Web nerd. Incurable reader."

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