Chris Rattue: World Rugby competition life and death moment for the All Blacks

Chris Rattue, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 30 January 2019, 7:00PM
A new World Rugby tournament is currently being discussed in Los Angeles. (Photo / File)
A new World Rugby tournament is currently being discussed in Los Angeles. (Photo / File)

Los Angeles is known as the City of Broken Dreams, the perfect place for a rugby summit.

Few things are more broken in world sport than Super Rugby, a half-hearted provincial competition which is destroying the game in Australia and turning it into a yawn in New Zealand.

South Africa, meanwhile, is so disillusioned or confused that some are dabbling with hitching a wobbly wagon to Europe.

Super Rugby started so brilliantly in the mid 1990s, yet somehow it has gone wrong. No wonder teenage boys are leaving the game in droves, with so many other entertainment options available in the digital age.

In the absence of a successful professional club/provincial competition, a World League is rugby's potential if imperfect saviour in this part of the world.

Rugby's leaders met in a (I'm guessing) posh Los Angeles hotel this week, and good luck to them in re-organising their sport on a dramatic level.

It's the northern hemisphere with most to lose out of the league of nations concept, because their Six Nations is a grand winter winner dotted amongst the power and profile of European football.

Southern hemisphere rugby is the one in trouble, where the game is a more dominant footy code in need of a huge revamp.

Apart from some test rugby, the game is a crock of you know what in this part of the world, and completely unprepared for a future in which it competes with glamorous sports and larger-than-life stars from the likes of world football and American basketball.

The level of excitement and drama around Super Rugby is close to zero by world sports standards. Super Rugby starts in February, trial games have already been played, and yet you would hardly know it is close to kickoff right now.

The Rugby Championship — involving the All Blacks, Wallabies, Springboks and Pumas — throws up great contests, but as a competition it sucks.

World Rugby's vice chairman Agustin Pichot is pushing for a world league, with a 12-nation competition apparently being mooted in the LA meetings.

This is a time for rugby to dream big, and dare to win. The biggest risk, for the southern hemisphere, is to do nothing at all.

What the LA summit suggests is an even greater concentration on test rugby is coming up. In a perfect world, this is not how it should be. But rugby is a long, long way from being a perfect world.

The only thing that works on a grand scale in New Zealand rugby is the World Cup obsession. But mid-year tests often fall flat.

And European money will blunt the All Blacks' power eventually, when players are more likely to follow the trend started by the likes of Charles Piutau and Steven Luatua who headed north at a young age.

World League? Absolutely, because southern hemisphere rugby needs a major injection of money to keep players here and glamour to attract future generations.

And a new league, by the sounds of it, will harness the power and potential of Pacific rugby, something SANZAAR has shamefully ignored.

As for the chances though, of rugby's discordant hemispheres and super powers getting together on something this big, minimal is my guess.