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Minnows promised fairer World Cup schedule
ESPN Staff
April 22, 2013
Namibia's Jacques Burger reflects on the match at the final whistle, Namibia v South Africa, Rugby World Cup, North Harbour Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand, September 22, 2011
Namibia were forced to play four pool games in the space of 17 days at the 2011 Rugby World Cup © Getty Images
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International Rugby Board chief executive Brett Gosper has announced that leading nations can expect to have to play midweek matches at the 2015 World Cup.

Organisers were the subject of widespread criticism during the 2011 tournament for a match schedule that gave the world's best sides a week between pool games in order to satisfy the demands of TV chiefs who wanted top-tier nations to play at weekends and therefore attract the highest possible viewing figures.

In contrast, minnows were forced to condense their pool campaigns with Russia having to play their four pool games - against Australia, Ireland, Italy and the USA - in the space of just 16 days while Namibia were afforded a similar length of time to negotiate clashes against South Africa, Wales, Samoa and Fiji. The same schedule demanded Samoa took on Wales in a crunch clash just four days after their opener against Namibia and take on South Africa five days following their fixture against Fiji.

"We think, in the next World Cup schedule that will be announced very soon in late April or early May, there is a very strong fairness in terms of the times of rest periods," Gosper told reporters in New Zealand earlier today. "It will be the same for all teams - far more equal, completely equal."

New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew insisted that the sport's leading countries fully supported the move having requested a more equitable draw. "We asked for it after the last World Cup," Tew said. "We thought it was unjust that the small unions play in a pinnacle event with a shorter rest period than we played our games."

The decision is expected to be endorsed by England Rugby 2015, the organisers of the tournament, and is unlikely to cause concern among broadcasters or fans with high-profile sporting fixtures - most notably Champions League football matches - having long since occupied such a window.

Gosper has also vowed to ensure that Regulation 9, that stipulates the IRB's stance on player release, will be strictly enforced going forward after reports that certain players were not released by their clubs ahead of the last tournament.

"We take it very seriously, both for the integrity of the international game, but also for the individual player to represent his country," Gosper added. "We had a meeting very recently to make sure that Regulation 9 would be enforced in a very robust way. They [the clubs] stated that they feel it was very important and they would operate in that way in the future."

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