What Italy's Rugby Union team and startups have in common.

By Matthew Parker

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Over the past 3 months, one of the most watched sporting events has been unfolding in Europe without almost any reporting in Australia whatsoever (much to my frustration). This of course, has been the Rugby Union Six Nations - an annual tournament where the national rugby teams from England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, France and Ireland, square off in the ultimate of sporting battles. Much to my delight, England emerged victorious.

However, something incredible happened in Twickenham on a cold weekend in February that may change the game forever; Italy (the consistent losers of the tournament) squared off against the might of England, (the favourites for the tournament and arguably the best team in the world at the moment). Italy almost upset these giants by exploiting a “loophole” in the rules around the development of the game line. In short - when someone makes a tackle, and the defender grounds the player and a “ruck” is formed around them, once this ruck is formed, an imaginary line is drawn across the field and any player that oversteps this line is breaking the law. However, what Italy did was not create a ruck, and as a result no line was created, and the defending players (Italy) were free to move wherever they liked - causing ABSOLUTE MAYHEM. watch the entire video because England Rugby is the best! But if you are just looking to get to the point of the vid, fast-forward to 1minute45.

The result of this situation was that two of England’s most experienced players had to ask the referee for the rules of the game and the might of England was trailing for almost the entire game.

Now I hate to use this term, but Italy “disrupted” England, in the same way that plucky startups, are disrupting the status quo and changing the game. One of the best examples of this is Uber. They realised a loophole in the laws surrounding rideshares, taxis and metering, and exploited this to disrupt an industry which is now changed forever.

When we look at financial services, there is a parallel. We are currently in the midst of a “boom” of new companies looking to push the boundaries of what is doable in the space and force the banks to adapt in order to win. Unfortunately (well fortunately for me), in this game, Italy did not emerge as Uber and England adapted to win by a significant margin, almost entirely gained in the last 10 minutes. This is the stage we are at with FinTech in Australia currently. The mighty banks are able to delve into their comparatively bottomless resources (England also being the best-funded team in World Rugby) to either stifle or slowly adapt to the emerging minnows clipping at their heels.

The big question in the Rugby Union world currently is has this changed the game forever, for good or for worse. Read The Economist’s surmise of it here. My dad would say for worse, but then, we do represent the happy incumbent at the top of the pedestal worrying about the plucky upstart and how it’s going to eat into our profit…I mean victory. Big Banks in Australia have long sat at the top, able to dictate laws and prevent smaller business from taking a meaningful piece of their profit. Unfortunately, I feel this will remain the same for the foreseeable future, but it is unquestionable that Italy, and FinTech start-ups are changing the way that the larger incumbents are able to play. Whether Italy will beat England will remain to be seen, but they have perhaps changed the game forever.

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