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‘Set up to fail’: Cards still stacked against smaller nations at Rugby World Cup

‘Set up to fail’: Cards still stacked against smaller nations at Rugby World Cup


Uneven playing field

Barring spirited performances from the likes of Portugal or Uruguay, the 2023 Rugby World Cup currently underway in France has once again exposed the chasm between the sport’s haves and have-nots, highlighting the need for a concerted effort to help emerging nations raise their game, particularly in Africa.  

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Chile's players shake hands with their English opponents after a crushing 71-src defeat at the Rugby World Cup on September 23, 2src23.

Chile’s players shake hands with their English opponents after a crushing 71-0 defeat at the Rugby World Cup on September 23, 2023. © Sameer Al-Doumy, AFP

Days after his team suffered a crushing 71-0 defeat at the hands of England, Chile coach Pablo Lemoine vented his frustration at rugby’s glaring inequalities in an interview with French sports daily L’Equipe.  

Lemoine highlighted the great divide between the sport’s traditional heavyweights and the smaller nations lagging behind – a discrepancy he portrayed as a mismatch between “the clowns on one side and the big landowners on the other”.  

“People rave about the small teams putting up a fight, and everyone is thrilled to see Chile play in their first World Cup, but behind the scenes nothing changes,” said the head coach of Los Condores (The Condors), as the Chileans are known. 

Read more‘Special moment’ for South American rugby as Chile join Argentina and Uruguay at World Cup

His remarks won the backing of Argentina’s Agustin Pichot, the former deputy chief of World Rugby, the sport’s governing body. 

In a message posted on the social media platform X, Pichot – who played with Lemoine at Paris club Stade Français in the early 2000s – said his former teammate was right to complain that rugby’s “clowns” had been left out of the sport’s exclusive “boys’ club”.  

The comment was widely interpreted as a dig at rugby’s governing body, which he quit in 2020 after failing in his bid to secure the top job and enact sweeping reform. 

Lopsided contests

Chile’s Lemoine said his team’s historic qualification for the World Cup owed much to the creation of a professional Sout

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