World Rugby and first tier rugby nations should do more to help second tier nations to improve

 

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Expanding the Six Nations to include Georgia would surely benefit the national team. This is one of several steps that should be taken to help make Tier 2 nations more competitive. Photo: By Paata Vardanashvili [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

In July, the New Zealand team travelled to Apia to play their Pacific neighbours Samoa. To many followers of rugby this non-competitive, exhibition match may have otherwise seemed like just an ordinary match between two rugby-mad nations. However the meeting at Apia Park was in fact an historic occasion as this was the first time, since the establishment of the Western Samoan team back in 1924, that New Zealand had played in the Samoans’ backyard.

Sadly, international sides such as New Zealand and other ‘first division’ international teams are likely to pass over opportunities to play games, home or away, against the likes of Samoa because such games lack commercial value.

Argentina’s third place finish at the 2007 Rugby World Cup put pressure on global rugby institutions to allow the South American side to participate in the Southern Hemisphere’s Tri Nations Championship. In 2012 Argentina were finally admitted to the reformed Rugby Championship alongside New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. This was undoubtedly a positive step forward. The Pumas had earned their right to compete in a regular tournament against some of the world’s leading international sides. Yet more could, and should be done, to try and help develop other national teams in other parts of the world.

A welcome move would be for the so-called ‘top tier’ or first division international teams (generally considered to be the ten countries which participate in either the Six Nations and Rugby Championship) to play more games against second tier sides such as Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Japan, Canada, USA, Georgia and Romania. At present, the international rugby calendar follows a predictable format. In every non-World Cup year the Northern Hemisphere giants head south to play a series of tests against South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, or Argentina. During the autumn these Southern Hemisphere sides tour Britain and Ireland, France and Italy.

When travelling north or south of the equator, Tier 1 nations’ tours could include a ‘stop off’ en route in say, Bucharest, Vancouver or Suva. These games could be coordinated so as to ensure that each of these aforementioned second tier nations, and possibly a few more not mentioned here, get to play at least two games a year, one in the summer and one in the autumn/winter, against first tier Northern and Southern Hemisphere teams.

The current Six Nations format could be reformed so as to give another European country the opportunity to participate in the tournament. This could be done by permanently expanding the number of countries to seven, or through a promotion and relegation system between the Six Nations and the European Nations Cup (effectively the second division Six Nations) which this season was contested by Georgia, Romania, Spain, Portugal, Russia and Germany.

The monthly magazine Rugby World has suggested that a play-off system could operate between the two competitions whereby the team which finishes last in the Six Nations would play the European Nations Cup’s champion, home and away, to contest a place in the following season’s Six Nations. The losing side would play in the European Nations Cup for the following season.

If European Rugby authorities were to indefinitely expand the tournament to seven then Georgia has made the best case to be included as the seventh nation. The ‘Lelos’, as they are known,  have dominated the Europe’s second tier competition, winning eight tournaments since its inception in 2000, twice as many as their nearest rival, Romania. Georgia is currently playing in their fourth consecutive World Cup and Georgian players have featured regularly in high-level club competitions. Last year, seven members of the international squad were playing in the Southern Hemisphere’s Super 15 Competition whereas others ply their trade in professional French club sides such as Toulon and Montpellier. Captain Mamuka Gorgodze was selected as Best Foreign Player in the Super 15 in 2011.

There might be doubts over whether the Lelos are ‘ready’ to compete alongside the original six teams, and if they were to be included then would they have little hope of becoming more than the whipping boys of the tournament? While Georgia may suffer some heavy defeats along the way, to think that they will get whacked in every game is rather presumptuous. At the 2007 World Cup Georgia came within (literally) inches of defeating Ireland and have run Italy close before when the sides have met.

Georgian rugby can only benefit from playing in a more competitive, higher quality competition against Europe’s top international sides on a regular basis. Nobody would argue that Italian rugby has regressed following 16 seasons of playing Six Nations rugby or that Argentinian rugby has been hindered by the expansion of the Tri Nations three years ago.

Georgia’s dominance in the European Nations Cup over the last decade illustrates that they are worthy and also ‘ready’ to become the seventh member of a new Seven Nations tournament. If both national and world rugby institutions are truly committed to strengthening and developing the game in other parts of the world then they should embrace change. The surest way to do this is by arranging more regular test matches between first and second tier nations and by opening the door for Georgia to join Europe’s elite.

The Success of British Indians

A 2014 Policy Exchange report A Portrait of Modern Britain written by Rishi Sunak, the new Conservative MP for Richmond and Sanatha Rajeswaran, compiles a whole array of stats and figures about Britain’s largest minority ethnic groups drawn from the 2011 Census, the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Department of Education and the Ethnic Minority British Election Study (EMBES) making it a useful resource for researchers.

What really strikes you when reading this document is the success which Britain’s Indian population has achieved. In recent years schools, universities and public institutions have observed ‘Black History Month’ to celebrate and to educate people about black history. Perhaps we should do more to celebrate and recognise the contribution which has been made by British Indians and other ethnic and religious minorities in recent decades.

In the 2011 Census, 1.4 million, or 2.2 percent of the population of England and Wales were of Indian ethnicity. Indian migration to Britain began in the 1950s and continued through the 1960s and ‘70s. Many of the early migrants were doctors from the western province of Gujarat who came to work in the NHS. A large proportion of Indian migrants has been highly skilled or at least hold secondary or higher qualifications. One would imagine that this gave Indian settlers and their British-born descendents an advantage considering that three-quarters of Indian migrants have these qualifications compared to 46 percent of first generation Pakistanis, 37 percent of first generation Bangladeshis and 16 percent of first generation Afro-Caribbeans.

In recent statistics 43 percent of ethnic Indians were employed in the highest-skilled professions and 17 percent have a PhD or other higher qualification. Indians have lower rates of unemployment than citizens of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, African or Afro-Caribbean origin. Materially, British Indians are also better off. Sixty-five percent own their own home while 82 percent of Indian households own at least one car. Success in adult life is perhaps reflective of Indians’ educational performance, from primary school level through to higher education. As Sunak and Rajeswaran write:

“Indian pupils outperform all other population groups at Key Stage 2 and continue to outperform at Key Stage 4 (GCSE), with a greater proportion of the Indian population gaining five A*- C grades, a greater proportion of those including Maths and English, and a greater proportion of those attaining A* – C in a Modern Language.”

At GCSE level the difference between Indians and other featured ethnic groups is pronounced. Three quarters of Indian pupils achieve at least C grades in Maths and English compared to 50 percent of black Caribbean pupils. Half of students of Indian origin gain a minimum of a C grade in a modern language compared to 19 percent of Afro-Caribbeans. Seventy percent of Indians enter higher education, 37 percent of whom are accepted into leading universities ranked in the top third in the British rankings whereas 14 percent are admitted into Russell Group universities.

What are the factors behind the Indian population’s success in education and in the job market? As mentioned earlier, this can in part be attributed to skill levels of first generation Indian migrants. Subsequent generations benefitted from growing up in homes with highly educated parents and other relatives where they received encouragement to work hard at school and university and to pursue good careers. Other factors, such as work ethic and an appreciation of education and learning should also be considered.

In a number of case studies in his 1983 book, The Economics and Politics of Race,Thomas Sowell examines a variety of successful immigrant groups from around the world including the Chinese in several south-east Asian countries, the Jews in eastern Europe and North America, the Armenians in Ottoman Turkey, Germans and Italians in Brazil and the Chinese and Japanese in the United States.

Sowell found that in many of these examples first generation immigrants toiled in low skilled, low paid menial jobs saving what disposable income they could to eventually start small businesses. Within a few generations their descendents became more prosperous and better educated than the indigenous population and other minority groups, often becoming ‘over-represented’ in various trades and professions. The success of European Jews, Armenians in Ottoman Turkey and the Chinese in Malaysian, Thai and Vietnamese societies prompted the indigenous ruling classes to introduce discriminatory measures to prevent their participation in certain jobs or restrict their access, as was the case in Malaysia, to university courses. Despite facing these barriers European Jews, Armenians and Chinese continued to prosper in these host societies.

There could be multiple reasons why certain immigrant communities succeed in education and in the job market compared to other settler groups. Britain’s Indian population has no doubt benefitted because of the skills and qualifications that their forebears possessed.

However other factors, such as strong families, work ethic, entrepreneurship and a desire to ‘aim high’ and to ‘get ahead.’ An updated British study, in a style similar to The Economics and Politics of Race would make interesting reading and would improve our understanding of the strengths which the country’s ethnic population has contributed to Britain’s economic development.