Physical preparation pushed to its fullest, economic development to new frontiers: rugby tests its limits at the World Cup in Japan, where it must negotiate its turn to continue its growth.
The previous edition, in 2015 in England, had been a real success from an economic point of view as well as on the plan of the show. With 2.47 million tickets sold, World Rugby was happy to have organized the 5th sporting event in history, for spin-offs (3 billion euros) and record audiences. A vital treasure for the supreme organ of the game since it provides 90% of the income needed for its programs of the next quadrennial cycle.
Four years later, World Rugby hopes to gain even more commercial revenue from the Japanese edition, the first in Asia. And to compensate for a necessarily declining TV audience in Europe - given the morning hours - by the explosion of the number of its Asian viewers, generating lucrative contracts (Heineken, Societe Generale, DHL, MasterCard, Land Rover and Emirates are the six major sponsors).
"The nerve of war is also to sign partnerships," said AFP Magali Tezenas, general delegate of Sporsora, an organization specializing in the sports economy. "On the event itself, they will certainly not have the turnover they made in England or they will do in France (at the next edition in 2023), but in terms of development of the practical and attractive for the partners, they are very important territories. "
- World League buried -
Wedged between two host countries that are, in principle, more profitable, Japan represents both "the will to leave the traditionally organizing nations" and "a targeted geographical area like a rugby ground of tomorrow", estimates Christophe Lepetit, sports economist at the Sports Law and Economics Center (CDES) Limoges. The need becomes urgent: almost 25 years after its professionalization, rugby struggles to see emerging nations and competitive leagues, and the promises of yesteryear (Italy, Canada, Romania) have faded.
Above all, World Rugby had to abandon its lack of consensus on its draft Championship of Nations, yet supported by a guaranteed income of nearly 7 billion euros, which would have raised the funds of National Federations.
While the Europeans, at the root of the blockage, are firmly seated on their loot, the lucrative Six Nations Tournament, the big nations of the southern hemisphere (South Africa, New Zealand, Australia), run out of financial income, draw the language. In the end, the only winner is the World Cup itself, which retains its uniqueness and legibility.
And in Japan, the show should remember the Olympic motto: "faster, higher, stronger". Like the bodybuilder Springboks on a post-workout photo, released last week, which frightened and intrigued, the players of the leading nations enjoy a more and more meticulous preparation.
- "Last percentages" -
"The players train more than before, certainly, but they train especially better", explains Thierry Dusautoir who links this to "the arrival of connected objects". "The performance is more and more measured, the training more and more calibrated, so the athletes are more and more successful," says the former captain of the XV of France.
Rugby "now comes to a stage where it is mastered and in the last percentages to win the performance", summarizes Fabien Pelous, another former captain of the Blues. "This sport is more and more physical but in the sense of speed," says the former second line.
"We prepare players, depending on positions, much more specific than before," abounds Jean-Marc Lhermet, development director of Clermont. "We have physically ready players like they have never been ready, but they are used differently by game projects that tend to make room for more movement, speed, displacement," says the former flanker.
"The more we advance in rugby history and the more things will be mastered," predicts Pelous for whom "there is no limit." Before Usain Bolt, you thought that no one could go under the 9 "75, 9" 70 but he did it. " On your marks...
© 2019 AFP