The future All Black may only have time to play for his country in the new international game
We might as well look forward to it, then.
The romantics among us might yearn for yesteryear. To see club and provincial rugby play a meaningful part in New Zealand’s rugby pathway and to see tours replace multi-nation tournaments.
But we’re not the ones paying the bills and while a return to some of those things might be lovely, they’re not financially sustainable. The proposed Nations Cup very well might be, though.
New Zealand Rugby (NZR) are an organisation looking for a fiscal silver bullet and an opportunity to maximise the All Blacks’ commercial value. Spending two months of the year in home and away battles with the best Northern Hemisphere sides would be an avenue to do that and something many fans should relish.
Brent Impey, the quotable chairman of NZR, has said the Southern Hemisphere sides need the test model to change if they’re to stay afloat. That was a large part of why NZR supported the candidacy of Agustin Pichot in the just-completed World Rugby chairmanship campaign.
Incumbent Bill Beaumont may have been returned for a final four-year term, but he’s begun that by making encouraging noises about the Nations Cup actually getting off the ground.
Among the impediments, when the tournament was first mooted, was a lack of enthusiasm from the Six Nations sides as well complaints from players in various countries that the travel and playing loads might be too great.
But with Beaumont suggesting the Six Nations competition won’t be impacted by a Nations Cup and New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and Argentina all eager to get earning again, the stage is set.
How soon this tournament might be played is anyone’s guess. Without a vaccine to combat COVID-19, it could be a while.
Then there’s the impact a Nations Cup might have on the rest of rugby in New Zealand.
Beaumont has talked about a potential window of October and November for the Nations Cup, leaving plenty of time for the SANZAAR teams to stage Super Rugby and whatever version of The Rugby Championship exists in years to come.
But, if we assume that the back-end of each season is where the games of greatest consequence will lie, then New Zealand’s best players surely won’t exert themselves fully in the months prior.
A global rugby season is overdue and it appears that this coronavirus pandemic might be the thing to finally prompt it.
Again, there will be traditionalists who bemoan it all, who want NZR’s resources to prop up the bottom of the pyramid and not be spent on those lucky players at the top. But the counter is that there will be no game in New Zealand without the big bucks generated by the All Blacks.
There’s no way NZR can fund the lower levels if the All Blacks are playing six or eight times a year. Yes, it might be heartwarming to have the Springboks make a full tour of this country and then watch the All Blacks go off in search of the Grand Slam, but it won’t pay the bills.
New Zealand Rugby have instead set their stall on a Nations Cup, so let’s hope it’s a raging success.
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