Bledisloe Cup has become a sideshow to rugby’s boardroom circus – Sydney Morning Herald

But that was on Tuesday – there was plenty of time for it to get a whole lot worse by the end of the week.

And so it came to pass.

Australia and New Zealand are at loggerheads... and they haven't even played each other yet.

Australia and New Zealand are at loggerheads… and they haven’t even played each other yet.Credit:Getty

Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, the self-serving billionaire (sorry, philanthropist), had been talking to New Zealand Rugby behind Rugby Australia’s backs all along.

Here’s the chronology of that curious Faustian pact.

In early July, a well-placed Super Rugby source in New Zealand told this column that there was a wild idea about the Western Force “joining” New Zealand.

How we chuckled. It was like one of those blue-sky ideas that occasionally pop up in a company brainstorming session, which older heads nod along to and quietly wait to disappear.

But it didn’t. It kept doing the rounds until the point that a quiet inquiry was placed into Rugby Australia about a month ago to check its veracity. They hadn’t heard anything. They still didn’t know anything on Thursday. They did not know.

As for NZ Rugby, its Super Rugby strategy seems to be to bring Rugby Australia to its knees before it brings them to the negotiating table, denying them their funder of choice (Forrest) and preying on the current lack of a broadcast deal.

Smart, that – hoping that the only possible ally you might have left is weakened to the point of extinction. A truly cunning plan.

South African rugby boss Jurie Roux must be lighting up cigars as he surveys the dumpster truck ablaze to his south.

This week, Roux took South Africa into Europe’s third-rated competition (the Pro14’s best team, Leinster, were recently exposed by Saracens), thereby turning rugby in South Africa into a bizarre summer/winter sport, in which they will entertain sun-stressed Irishmen in a South African summer one week, and then travel to winter in Wales the following week.

And yet, despite the absurdity of that competition, Roux appears to have struck the best deal of the week – it certainly looks better than New Zealand’s plan to fling three new franchises into Super Rugby in 2022.

Goodness knows what broadcasters and sponsors make of this bag of nonsense. In New Zealand, Sky was so panicked about South Africa’s move north that it issued a statement to the NZ stock exchange to reassure investors it still had the rights to SANZAAR products.

But here’s the news. The Rugby Championship is dead. Maybe not now, or even tomorrow, but it’s coming. Have a look at the Pro14 calendar, then the Rugby Championship calendar, and tell me how it still works.

We should be talking about the rugby. We should be talking about how there is a storm coming for the Wallabies forwards next weekend.

About how the All Blacks will tap into a sense of grievance about being asked to spend Christmas in quarantine (do you think they care about the finer details of the argument?) and carry that into every collision.

About how men like Matt Philip, Lukhan Salakaio-Loto and Harry Wilson need to stand up to this coming storm – driven by hard-nosed All Blacks assistant coach John Plumtree – or else there will be Wallabies blood and guts strewn all over Sky Stadium in Wellington.

We should be talking about Dave Rennie and Ian Foster, for goodness sake, a storyline so rich a million words could be written about it but there would still be new angles.

But we aren’t because the men in suits can’t who run the show can’t even agree what board minutes are.

What an absolute, fair dinkum, grade-A shambles.

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Paul Cully is a rugby columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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