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scan.lancastersu.co.uk SCANLU SCANLancaster29S p o r t sThe Shaping of the2023 RugbyWorld CupPeter MurdockSPORTS EDITORFollowing the monumental success of Japan2019, the Men’s World Cup, held this yearin France, should hopefully be more thanmatch the stories and legends now set intosporting history.There’s palpable enthusiasm for France 2023across the global rugby scene, and that stems froma number of differing factors and circumstancesthat, as with any major sporting event, haveuniquely contributed towards the tournamentfeel.The Aftershock of CovidFirstly, and it must be emphasised, that betweenthis World Cup and its predecessor, the Covid-19Pandemic hit the world of sport; rugby was noexception. In general, this meant a whole year ofvery little to no games for many nations.For instance, the reigning champions of SouthAfrica didn’t play one game during 2020, in a yearwhere after winning the World Cup, the teamwould have looked to both reassess their squad,and build momentum.Viral videos appearedfrom Argentinian playersconfined in hotel roomsand apartments doingcrude workouts for monthson end, resulting fromArgentina’s elongatedlockdown policy.2020 was arguably the key year for all teams torebuild, and all were affected to varying degrees,which has meant that some nations’ preparationhas been drastically cut short. Needless to saythat the enforced absence of rugby even threeyears later will cause supporters and players aliketo appreciate a World Cup more than ever. Theatmosphere should be electric.The FavouritesThe teams competing this year are the mostcompetitive and developed teams that haveever been seen before. This goes for both thetournament favourites and the historicallysmaller teams, who unlike previous years, aren’tsimply appearing to ‘make up the numbers.’Looking to the strongest teams, many will say thatthe scramble to the trophy will be led by Ireland,France, and South Africa. In general, New Zealand,the most successful international team in history,are being placed outside of the top bracket.By the time this article is released, many resultsof the competition will already be known, and thesheer talent within the All Blacks team may havedriven them back into the unplayable, matchwinningform of years gone by.However, I do doubtwhether this will be enoughto match the tried andtested formulas that theaforementioned ‘big-three’have been implementingrather nicely over the lastcouple of years.A Changing Playing FieldMore excitingly still, especially for the neutral, isthe hopeful emergence of a new generation of tiertwonations stepping forward into the light. Theintroduction of Chile onto rugby’s biggest stagefor the first time is a sure sign of the continuingspread of the sport in South America. They willlook to continue their ground-breaking run ofform into France, taking whatever scalp maypresent itself.Perhaps the greatestamount of attention shouldbe turned towards theSouth Sea island nations.Fiji, Tonga, and Samoahave always thrilled teamswith their characteristicflair, passion and sheerphysicality. However,perhaps for the first time,the pendulum has swungto a point where all three ofthese teams have the abilityto seriously challenge.One can very quickly point to Fiji’s first ever winover England at Twickenham in the warm-upmatches as evidence of this. Who knows whatother upsets of this nature could take place overthe coming weeks?This levelling of the playing field at internationallevel can be pinned to one fundamental changemade in 2021 by the international governing body,World Rugby.Prior to its introduction, international playerscould only ever play for one country; regardingteams like Tonga and Samoa, this has continuouslypresented a challenge.Due to the general lack of funding of their rugbyprograms which can inhibit careers, many playershave opted to move abroad, where they havequalified through residency to play for thatcountry. In essence, this has meant a massexodus of players, both physically away from theirrespective homes, and from a rugby standpoint, astalent is lost to other countries.The new law has meantthat, over the last coupleof years, players whomay have been selectedpreviously to play for othernations, such as Englandand New Zealand, are noweligible to represent theircountry of birth or heritage.Crucially, this has floodedthese teams with worldclass rugby players, whoare now reshaping thepossibilities of Pacific Islandrugby for years to come.The impact of this change should not beunderstated. Indeed, it may just begin to relegatethe ‘David vs Goliath’ stories of old to the past,whilst replacing them with more competitive andequal rugby that supporters and players alike havebeen demanding.A New LegacyI have no doubt that France 2023 will be a success.Star-studded teams aplenty, ever-passionate fansand a country that believes it is their time to winthe Webb Ellis Cup. A melting pot of sport at itsfinest is on the cards.The 2019 World Cupin Japan certainly setexpectations high, as itlaunched rugby into a newarea of the world; this year,the tournament returns toone of the powerhouses ofthe sport.However, whether or not collectively thisWorld Cup reaches its full potential will be seenparticularly in the performances away from thesehistorical powerhouses.It will be seen in the little and large momentsthat represent and speak to the fans, players andnations who, in a relatively short space of time,have undergone change like never before.Photo Credits: @World Rugby onInstagramSPORTS EDITORS:Will Jones& Peter MurdockMaryEarps –Why ShouldWe Give aShirt?Maisie OtterburnWELFARE OFFICER/ WRITEREngland Woman’s Player of the YearMary Earps has recently called Nikeout on the unavailability of her goalkeeper strip.Earps stated that it was ‘hugely disappointingand very hurtful’ that family, friends and fanswere unable to buy her shirt during the 2023Women’s World Cup.She was named best goalie in 2022, wonthe 2023 Golden Glove off the back of herperformance during the World Cup and hasrecently been named England Woman’s Playerof the Year. Surely Nike have missed out on ahuge money making business by not sellingher strip?When it comes to sports, especially bigsporting brands, ‘it’s often money that is theloudest voice…not equality’.It can be argued thatthe decision not tooriginally sell Earps’sshirt was basedon the notion thatcommercially, theywouldn’t sell many.It’s obvious that Nike weren’t anticipatingwhat a tournament Mary Earps would have.However, respect and support of Earpsshouldn’t solely be based on the performanceof one tournament.Women’s football is pushing and working tobreak through the glass ceiling of expectationsand restrictions. By excluding Earps fromNike sales, it could be viewed that she isn’ttaken seriously as a player.However, the 150,000 signatures that Earpsfan Emmy’s petition secured show thesupport that she has. Emmy stated that shestarted the petition to ‘make them see justhow important our female goalkeepers are’.The same view was held by a record label thatcreated an unofficial shirt for fans to buy – ‘ifyou don’t make it, we will’.It becomes harderfor female players,especially femalegoalkeepers, who arebecoming role modelsfor young girls to gainthe respect that theydeserve. All becausecertain sports brands,in this case Nike,refuse to sell the strip.Nike did make a U-turn after the tournament,in the wake of the petition, and released alimited number of Earps’s shirts for fans tobuy.