When the revolution comes, let’s not give any credence to the views of players.
World rugby leagues, be they based around clubs or countries, are on their way and, boy, do we need them down in the Southern Hemisphere.
You’ll remember the hue and cry from various players’ associations last year, when they leaked a story to supportive media about a proposed Nations Championship. Then-All Blacks captain Kieran Read, for instance, enlightened us with these observations, in voicing his opposition to World Rugby’s proposed 12-team competition:
“We need to be very careful that we balance the commercial needs of the game with the player welfare needs and ensure the quality and integrity of matches meets expectations,’’ Read said.
“Fans want to see meaningful games; they don’t want to see fatigued players playing a reduced quality of rugby as part of a money-driven, weakened competition that doesn’t work for the players and clubs.’’
Bodies such as New Zealand Rugby (NZR) need masses of money for one reason alone – to meet the extraordinary wage demands of their players. The same players who also want to be rested, rotated and sent on sabbatical when it suits them.
Meaningful games? The All Blacks won’t play one between now and the knockout rounds of the next Rugby World Cup.
There’s already no integrity to Super or All Blacks rugby because of all the workload management that’s going on.
Honestly, the more Six Nations rugby you watch, the more futile you feel the footy we get down here is.
Sure, some of the skill-execution leaves a bit to be desired in the Six Nations, but there’s no doubting the intensity. It’s not confined to the playing field either. The passion of the fans puts us all to shame as well.
But who could blame us? This year, Scotland are here for a Test, then Wales for two, before the eternally dull Rugby Championship.
The All Blacks’ team will be unrecognisable from one week to the next and sometimes the players won’t even be in the same country. Playing Argentina, for instance, is such a non-event, that history suggests half the team will fly direct to South Africa instead.
Heaven help us if the All Blacks really start doing things to diminish the ‘integrity’ of the competition.
World Rugby might have been rebuffed a year ago, but money will eventually talk. Reports that CVC Capital Partners are about to purchase a share of the Six Nations suggest significant change is coming.
Already stakeholders in the Pro14 and English Premiership competitions, CVC are said to want a more global game. To that end, talks between themselves and World Rugby are well underway.
What becomes of those discussions remains to be seen, but you can feel fairly certain that our best players – whether as the All Blacks or in their Super Rugby guise – will be spending more time in airports and the like.
Frankly, we need them to. The Six Nations still stirs up its fanbase, but we don’t have too much to cheer about down here.
Change has to come, in whatever form.
The last World Cup cycle featured a British and Irish Lions tour, but there’s nothing to look forward to this time. Just more and more matches with nothing on them. No title of significance, no promotion or relegation, no tournament qualification. Just a glorified friendly match to satisfy the TV paymasters, played by men whose reward will be to sit the next one out.
Players might like what’s on the horizon. They might complain en masse, as they did about the Nations Championship, but it’s them who’ve put us in this position.
They all enjoy the trappings of professional rugby, but few of the obligations that go with it.
You can’t look at that and tell me change isn’t long overdue.
Ardie Savea reveals shock Rugby League ambitions:
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