This mess makes it clear: It’s time for major change in global rugby

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    The lesson to learn from the Western Force’s drawn-out culling is that rugby must transition into the next stage of professionalism and become a united game globally.

    Andrew Forrest’s proposed Indo-Pacific competition will create more headaches in the short term.

    For example, will Australian players be eligible for the Wallabies if they play for the Force (or indeed another team)? I suspect the ARU will say no, as a major reason for culling a team was to concentrate talent.

    Will it be financially viable? How much money will Forrest sink into it if it doesn’t make money? Will they be able to attract star players? What effect will the rival competition have on Super Rugby? Will it stem the flow of players from south to north?

    And what happens in 2020 when a new broadcast agreement is made? Will the Force be invited back? Would they accept?

    Messy stuff.

    But it presents an opportunity for World Rugby, SANZAAR and local unions to redesign the global calendar and competitions, to make rugby a truly professional, global sport.

    The first era of professionalism has been successful, and the game is in strong health, but to build on this foundation the time is right for evolution, so the game can strengthen existing markets and expand into new territory.

    The current Super Rugby model has run its course. Fans have lost interest, crowds are down and South African franchises want out. We should let them go north, but to accommodate this, the global season will need to be tweaked.

    I doubt the Springboks will want to stop playing the All Blacks, so the national team will stay in the Rugby Championship. But if their club go north, the global season must accommodate this. Therefore, Southern Hemisphere competitions may have to align their seasons with the Northern Hemisphere season to allow the best players to be available for Test Matches.

    This may mean rugby in summer, but why not? It worked for the A-League.

    I like the idea of having the Jaguares in a professional competition, but logistically this is not working for Super Rugby. A new professional competition needs to be established in the Americas, possibly involving Argentina, Uruguay, USA and Canada. It’s a massive market, with huge room for expansion.

    This leaves space for an Asia-Pacific competition involving clubs from Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands and Japan. Drop the Super Rugby brand, do away with illogical conference arrangements, play a simple home-and-away competition.

    If the quality is there, it will be marketable.

    This also leaves room for expansion further into Asia, particularly China, in the future. Ideally, the current Rugby Championship will remain, with the possibility of adding Japan and Pacific teams once they are more consistently competitive.

    Aligning club seasons to timezones in this way will provide for more stable and marketable local competitions, while retaining the quality and integrity of Tests. Ideally there will be more incentive (financial and otherwise) for Southern Hemisphere players to play locally, especially Pacific Islanders, who for too long have been poached by the bigger unions.

    Sadly, I doubt anyone involved in the game at the moment has the foresight to implement such a change, but major change is needed.

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