Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 01:00 | SYDNEY
Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 01:00 | SYDNEY

Rugby Union as soft power

17 June 2010 11:09

Like Rodger Shanahan, I also believe Graham Dobell gives Rugby League way too much credit in terms of its regional impact and influence. Outside of parts of northern England, League is only taken seriously in two Australian states and PNG.

The Pacific nations are far more interested in Rugby Union, as Rodger notes. Japan also has a long Rugby Union tradition (over 3600 clubs and more than one million registered players), and its domestic competition hosts many former Australian and NZ internationals, plus a number of club players who missed out on selection with provincial sides back home.

That said, I'm not sure that the influence professional Rugby Union exerts is necessarily positive, given that Australia (and New Zealand) are responsible for draining much of the talent from Pacific nations and giving little back in return. If the Australian and New Zealand Unions were to begin investing some of their resources, with government assistance, into developing local Rugby Union talent and competitions in the Pacific, this would certainly provide a positive image.

Such 'soft power' enhancement would go a long way in our regional relations, and could be built upon further by making room in regional professional competitions like the Super 14 and the Tri-nations for a combined Pacific team, for example, or even a combined Japanese provincial side. 

Rugby Union networks involving various clubs, players, agents, and schools in the region are already in place. Governments only need pay a little more attention to what is happening to figure out ways of harnessing these growing sporting ties to promote bigger policy agendas and ambitions in the region.

As for Australian Football League's potential in this regard, I'd have to say 'scant to nothing!'

Photo by Flickr user Steve_C, used under a Creative commons license.