Williams heads off criticism of draw

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 March, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 March, 1997, 12:00am

WORLD Cup chairman Leo Williams admitted yesterday that there were flaws in the format of the competition - but added that he did not know if there was a better way that the three-day, 24-team tournament could have been organised. 'We had to use the first day as a seeding exercise because we had no previous form. Unfortunately this has reproduced a number of matches,' said Williams. Organisers yesterday hurriedly held a press conference following worldwide criticism of the format, which saw many teams meeting each other again on the second day - and in New Zealand's case, playing the same two opponents from day one, Tonga and Japan. 'We know this is not ideal. We had difficulty arriving at a suitable format. Even the decision to use this format by us was not a unanimous one,' said Williams. New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens has been an outspoken critic of the format ever since the Kiwis played in the qualifying rounds in Lisbon, labelling it 'crazy'.

Tietjens' main worry was that the playing field was not level. While New Zealand were given a tough first-round draw, Spain, a side they had beaten by 60 points in the Lisbon final, were drawn with Cook Islands and Morocco. With the number of tries a team scores mattering a great deal when the seedings were prepared for yesterday's second round and today's knockout stages, Tietjens asked how Spain could have weaker first round opponents than New Zealand. 'And what if we were to meet Fiji in the Cup quarter-finals, or were drawn in the same half of the draw?' he asked. Williams conceded the point, but then said: 'If Fiji and New Zealand meet early then either New Zealand hasn't played well or Fiji hasn't. 'We thought of all ways this tournament could be played . . . I'm sick of looking at formats. I'm open to suggestions so that we can improve when the 2001 World Cup Sevens is played.' RWC Ltd used the first day's competition as a yardstick to assess the strengths of the teams, as it was felt that they could not draw parallels from the three qualifying tournaments. 'We had to be fair to all the teams and use the first day as a seeding exercise,' added Williams.