England and the All Blacks are my early tips to win
Rugby is one of the best sports for making an impact on the young. It is about working together as a team, helping to increase their self-esteem and giving them a chance to improve their lives. As a Laureus World Sports Academy Member Hugo Porta supports the work of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and heads the Laureus Foundation in Argentina. Here he gives his thoughts on the upcoming Rugby World Cup, and how rugby can help to improve the lives of young people around the world.
BY HUGO PORTA
The Rugby World Cup will be very attractive this time around and great fun, given the local support and participation that it will get from all of those living in the United Kingdom. The UK has shown the capacity it has to organise world class events and has set a standard for them.
This time I think there are several teams who have got real chances to win. The Northern Hemisphere teams have had time to prepare. I am looking at England because they are the host and Ireland because they are going through a good time as a team.
From the Southern Hemisphere, Australia and the All Blacks have got their chances as they usually do. And even though it is difficult, I know the Pumas will play as hard as they can to be able to win the championship. Argentina has a competitive team. It always depends if anyone gets injured, but I hope they go far in the competition. There are some good players - I like Tomas Lavanini, Tomas Cubelli and Pablo Matera amongst others. But in rugby the star is the team.
Currently Argentine rugby is facing a crisis related to its growth. The local rugby clubs are very important in Argentina and they need to be preserved and supported given that our players come out of those clubs.
It is very early of course, but if I had to choose, I would say that England and the All Blacks are the teams that I see with most chance to win at this stage. I am certainly looking forward to seeing Dan Carter play. He missed much of the last World Cup because of injury and it will be good to watch him on the biggest stage in rugby.
My only experience of the Rugby World Cup was in 1987. Regrettably I do not have very good memories of that, as we failed to qualify from the pool stages. But it will always stay in my memory, the fact that I had the honour of having taken part in the first Rugby World Cup.
The growth of the World Cup is very important for the overall growth of the sport and I hope that each professional player still gets to feel what those of us who were amateurs felt when representing our national team.
Over the last few days I have been taking part in a charity bike ride for Laureus in the lead up to the Rugby World Cup with Morné du Plessis, one of my oldest friends from this wonderful game. He heads the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation in South Africa and they are the beneficiaries of the ride. I will accompany him, as he has supported the Laureus Foundation in Argentina on other occasions.
Laureus uses sport to improve the lives of children around the world and being able to raise funds from these activities is a perfect example of how this works. I love cycling, and being able to give back to society through sport, means for me this is a win, win opportunity.
All sports can teach young people the right values; the truth comes from the coaches and teachers. For example, most of the coaches in our clubs in Argentina give their time for free, they are volunteers. It is important to teach the children to play for fun, give them the freedom to learn how to make decisions, and teach them through practice and not only through theory.
It is important to acknowledge that practising a sport is a choice in itself. Playing a sport is a decision taken by the young people themselves and every choice comes with responsibilities.
The sport of rugby should be giving society a message of inclusion and tolerance, on and off the rugby field, and I am confident that will happen during the Rugby World Cup.
Hugo Porta is the greatest Argentine rugby player in history. He, more than anyone, attracted the attention of the world to rugby on the South American continent. He made his international debut in 1971 and scored 530 points for the ‘pumas’ in 57 matches. He captained his country 43 times.