[content_protector password=”running”]After four weeks and forty-four matches, the semi-finalists have been decided. And they are all from the southern hemisphere: New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina.

So it’s not even the World Cup anymore. It’s the Southern Hemisphere Cup. Those poor quarter-finalists from the north – Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France – can’t quite match the power and skill of the south, eh?

What is it about us in the southern hemisphere that makes us – this year, at least – such good rugby players? It’s odd because, if you think about it, everything that should make northern hemisphere countries better at rugby we just don’t have down here.

We’re smaller countries: New Zealand has a population of 4.5 million, Australia 23 million, Argentina 41 million and South Africa 52 million. Compare that with the United Kingdom (England, Wales and Scotland) with a population of 64 million, France 66 million and Ireland 6.5 million. All of us down south have fewer players.

There is far more money in rugby in the north: professional clubs, bigger leagues with more teams, more players being paid to play the game, more sponsorship money – competitions with more prestige and more prize money.

New Zealand hasn’t got many big stadiums compared to the massive ones in England that the Rugby World Cup is being played in. Facilities in Europe – many shared with soccer (a hugely rich sport) – are unlike anything in the southern hemisphere.

But apart from England in 2003, all the countries who’ve won the cup are from the southern hemisphere: New Zealand in 1987 and 2011, Australia in 1991 and 1999, South Africa in 1995.

So why do we do so well? Why is New Zealand, probably the smallest country at the Rugby World Cup, best in the world? What is it that makes the southern hemisphere teams so good – and the All Blacks so great?

Whoever ends up lifting the cup after the world cup final (and let’s hope it’s the All Blacks) will be, once again, a southern hemisphere team. What’s the southern secret to its success?

[colored_box color=”green”]This is an opinion-based article designed to provoke debate, discussion and further inquiry amongst your students:  [/colored_box]  [colored_box color=”yellow”]Critical Thinking Challenges:

1. What is the secret to southern success? Why do you think the southern hemisphere teams are better than the northern hemisphere teams at rugby?

2. Do better facilities, better training, more money really equal better end results? Is this true just of sport or any other area of life (does more money equal better schools and test scores, for example)?


[/colored_box] [colored_box color=”green”]Practical Tasks:

1. Choose a team (it might be New Zealand or any other) and look at all the results from previous Rugby World Cups. Which teams did your chosen team beat? By how much? Was there a big north/south difference? Show this statistical information in graphs or charts.

2. Write and give a persuasive speech. Using your thoughts from questions 1 and 2 in the Critical Thinking section, write a speech that could be used to persuade the rugby authorities in the north – England, France, Wales etc – on how to improve their game. What lessons from the All Blacks or Australia could they learn to get better themselves?

[/colored_box] [colored_box color=”red”]Have Your Say: [socialpoll id=”[socialpoll id=”2302252″] [/colored_box]


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