What a Rugby World Cup 2011 has been so far. Lots of close matches, the big teams threatened, some great new talent on display. New Zealand has really put on a show.
Canada, Ireland, Wales, Samoa, Georgia, Romania, and Japan have impressed with their development. The developing nations have closed the gap not widened it.
But while that is great to see these developing nations, would it not be good to have a four-pool, 16-team, three-matches-per-group stage?
Every loss in the pool round would be damaging, with even fewer second chances for teams to re-group.
So teams like Namibia would not currently play. Also having fewer teams you could finish the cup in faster time – say 38 days as opposed to 45 days – to maintain interest, while having longer rests between games for every team.
Samoa and Tonga for example have had tough draws.
Tonga had to back up five days after a match versus the host nation and best team in the world, the All Blacks.
And Samoa had to back up four days after their Namibia match to play Wales in crucial pool match. Given Wales had seven days off, that is not fair.
Matches where each pool round is must-win means both teams get up for it. Pressure causes mistakes and the top teams are human to. And they will succumb to moments of anxiety and pressure, knowing there is less in the way of second chances if they lose a pool match.
And the teams outside the big five will really have a nothing-to-lose attitude.
One argument is more teams; more matches in the tournament and more TV ratings. That is true to a point, but more matches does not mean the TV ratings will be higher, as fewer will tune in if the match is not crucial.
The Tri-Nations format, for instance, works best with a less-is-more attitude as well. Every loss is almost make or break, and the teams are more desperate to go at 100 percent for the away win, while bonus points become crucial.
With the format of six matches, three home, three away you can afford to lose two away matches and still win the Tri-Nations. But with four matches, you have to win both your games and still get one on the road.
The argument about World Cups is that they are there to decide champions of the World, not to be trials for players from developing rugby nations to get club contracts.
So great 2011 World Cup, but I would prefer if the IRB went back to the 16-team format.