19 Aug

Bill and Ben Flowerpot Men
by Paul Waite
19 Aug 2011

Count me as one of the surprised when I heard this week that there wasn’t just one Rugby World Cup trophy, but two. But it seems there are also two explanations of how they are used.

Like most I assumed that there was at least one replica of the Cup that the tournament organisers could use for promotional activities without worrying about loss or damage to the real one. However this week the following statement was made (see this NZ Herald article):

"As is common with other major sports tournaments, we have two trophies,
however only one is ever used at any given point in time," said
Tournament director Kit McConnell.

"Both cups are equal in stature. There is no original cup as such, they
are interchangeable and we don’t distinguish between the two. They were
both acquired before the first Tournament so share the same Rugby World
Cup history.

"Both have been used at past Tournaments and both have been in the hands
of winning captains and teams. They both represent the spirit of the
Game."

Well that sounds like bollocks to me. First of all, it’s obviously impossible for them to share the ‘the same Rugby World Cup history’. I didn’t see David Kirk, or any of the subsequent World Cup-winning captains holding up two cups, did you? No. So one of them was used and the other wasn’t, if we are to believe the above statement.

But wait. Tonight’s TV news had another story, also ostensibly emanating from the hallowed halls of Rugby World Cup Officialdom. This story goes differently. It tells us that the older William Webb-Ellis trophy (nick-named Bill) made in 1906 is the one that the skippers hold aloft and the team swigs champagne from, and then the victorious union gets to keep it for two years before it is returned for the final two years to IRB HQ in Dublin. For those last two years the replica (made in 1986) is swapped so the current holders still have ‘the Cup’ gracing their trophy cabinet.

Does it matter? Yes, in my opinion it very much DOES matter. Fans of this great game invest a huge amount of emotion into it, and when those of us fortunate enough to do so get a chance to touch or be photographed with the trophy we want to know that it is the one that Francois Pienaar et al proudly raised to the cheers of the crowd after the World Cup Final. Equally we want to know when we are only holding a replica.

In the immortal words of that classic movie Highlander, There Can Be Only One.

So I’m hoping that the first version of World Cup modus operandum is exactly what it sounds – a load of crap, and the second more plausible (and ethical) methodology is what happens.

So get your act together IRB, and desist with the conflicting stories which make you sound like you’re all smoking Little Weed.

Let the fans know where Bill and Ben really stand.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

Haka editor-in-chief. Please do not feed.

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