Biennual World Cups could come at a grave cost; Ulster land Duane Vermeulen coup

The Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team

Real Betis forward Borja Iglesias celebrates scoring his side’s third against Celtic. Photograph: Jorge Guerrero/Getty/AFP

Real Betis forward Borja Iglesias celebrates scoring his side’s third against Celtic. Photograph: Jorge Guerrero/Getty/AFP

In his column this morning Johnny Watterson has looked at the widely derided plans for a biennual World Cup in football and rugby. This is something he feels could not only taint the prestige of both competitions, but in the latter have serious health consequences for players who are already struggling for breathing space in a heavily congested calendar. He writes: “Fifa and World Rugby’s recent contemplations on filling the unforgiving minute with more World Cups, seems in rugby at least, the perfect way to burn down the club system and established international competitions such as Ireland’s cash cow, the Six Nations Championship. In the process squeeze more juice out of players.” He adds: “Those in power now, if not for the protection of current tournaments with long histories then for the players themselves, should be thinking less is more, shouting not on my watch.”

Ulster have landed a major coup as they announced the signing of Springboks number eight Duane Vermeulen yesterday. Vermeulen was named man of the match in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final win over England and returned to action in the Rugby Championship last weekend after missing this summer’s Lions tour through injury. And former Ulster backrow Stephen Ferris believes the signing is a major boost to the province’s hopes of lifting silverware this season: “He’s a brilliant maul defender, he’s a colossus of a man and very steady at the back of a scrum. Vermeulen can draw defenders, put boys into holes, he can get through contact and he’s a pretty good defender. He’s a World Cup winner and vastly experienced and I think he’s the perfect player to come over here. And it’s not just what he’s going to bring on the pitch but off it with those younger lads.”

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