Rugby World Cup
Miller insists All Blacks are replaceable
ESPNscrum Staff
October 3, 2011
IRB chief exectutive and RWCL managing director Mike Miller addresses the media, Rugby World Cup 2007, Paris, France, October 8, 2007
IRB chief executive Mike Miller has said the 2015 Rugby World Cup would continue without New Zealand's participation © Getty Images

The Rugby World Cup would continue without the All Blacks if they chose to boycott the 2015 tournament, according International Rugby Board (IRB) chief executive Mike Miller.

"Does the World Cup need the All Blacks? It would be good for the All Blacks to be there," Miller told New Zealand's Radio Sport on Tuesday. "Everyone is replaceable."

New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) chief executive Steve Tew last week said his organisation would reconsider the team's involvement in England in four years time unless the IRB changed the commercial model and revenue sharing.

Tew went on to say the NZRU had lost NZ$13.2 million ($10.1 million) in reduced revenue from sponsorship and ticket sales from a shortened Tri-Nations and lack of an end-of-year tour because of the tournament.

"He (Tew) is on the IRB Council, he's been involved in all of the decisions that we've made for the last five or six years, so he knows what's going on. It's the IRB Council that decides where the money goes," Miller commented. "Of course he doesn't talk about the NZ$12m that the NZRU gets from the IRB over the four-year cycle."

Miller admitted the timing of Tew's comments, which were backed by Australian Rugby Union boss John O'Neill, was "not brilliant" and that they were both aware of the IRB's decision to re-evaluate the World Cup commercial model after the current tournament. "We know what the issues are, which is why we had a conference on the Economics of the Game earlier this year, which Steve Tew was at," Miller added.

"The conference said after the Rugby World Cup, we'd look at the outcomes and whether we'd need to change the model on the commercial rules, the distribution of funds, and on the timing of the World Cup."

The IRB has also come under heavy criticism from smaller nations about the scheduling of the tournament, with Samoa centre Eliota Sapolu-Fuimaono particularly outspoken in two outbursts via social networking website Twitter.

Miller, however, pointed out that the modern realities of the tournament meant they had to plan the schedule to meet the demands from broadcasters, whose payments helped the IRB invest in the smaller countries.

"We don't care about the minnows? If that was the case why have we invested tens of millions of dollars over the past five or six years in order to try and make them more competitive? Why did we open up and pay for a high performance centre in Samoa? Why do we pay for the Pacific Rugby Cup, the Pacific Nations Cup, why do we give them coaches, trainers, why do we provide them with gyms with analysis tools?

"The tens of millions of dollars that we invest in the so-called minnows comes from Rugby World Cup from broadcasters who want to have the big games at the weekends," Miller said. "There's a simple answer. You can reduce it to 16 teams, then you'll have a more even schedule. But we wouldn't want to do that. It's better than it was last time and we'll make it better next time."

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