The Rugby World Cup in France has been superb so far, full of colour, vibrancy and plucky performances from underdogs cheered on by packed stadia. However, if ever there was a sound reason not to award games at this Rugby World Cup to Wales and Scotland it was the pitiful attendances at both Murrayfield (for Scotland v Romania) and Cardiff (for last night's match between Wales and Japan).
The crowd at Murrayfield was a pathetic 31,222 (capacity 67,800), which should come as no surprise given how poorly Scotland promoted the 1999 event, while in Cardiff a measly 42,588 (out of a capacity of 74,500) turned up. So, not only were Wales and Scotland given home advantage against two of the game's minnows (and I'm guessing that both results would have been much closer in a neutral venue) but the apathy of the Welsh and Scottish publics to these games contrasts hugely with the enthusiasm with which the French public has embraced the tournament.
What this highlights is not only the folly of allowing the tournament to be played in more than one territory (South Africa and Australia having previously shown that to host the event in a single territory works best), but also the intrinsically corrupt nature of how the IRB decides on who should host the tournament, with France effectively buying the Welsh, Scottish and Irish votes by promising them home matches during the group stages (the Irish subsequently handing these matches back when they realised Lansdowne Road wouldn't be ready). And yes, I know that the RFU didn't exactly behave in good faith when it demanded to host both semi-finals in exchange for voting for Wales to host the event in 1999, but that still doesn't justify what subsequently happened when the 2007 event was awarded.
And don't even get me started on the decision to give the 2011 tournament to New Zealand - a decision which caused such an outcry that surely the IRB must now wake up and see that the rugby public will no longer accept that decisions like this can be taken by a bunch of blazers behind closed doors.
Future decisions must be transparent and the people that make them need to be accountable. Nothing else will be acceptable.
Here endeth the lesson...