Rugby, one can safely deduce, is plummeting — head first — back to square one, if the World Cup semifinals qualifiers are anything to go by.

In the board game of snakes and ladders, there's no disputing the reptiles are sinking their fangs into the flesh faster than anyone can find antidotal serum to neutralise the poison infiltrating the blood stream.

The All Blacks were always going to be the yardstick of excellence and they have assumed that mantle with an air of distinction usually reserved for public schoolboys in Britain.

Put another way, coach Steve Hansen's Men in Black are the embodiment of Oxford University graduates adept at hunting, rifle shooting, fishing and tend to engage in fencing sport in their down time.

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No doubt, England coach Eddie Jones and his Kiwi assistant, John Mitchell, will dearly love to show the New Zealanders who is the real deal this weekend.

While there is an educated probability the Poms may prevail — as can South Africa — the impending reality is somewhat ominous for any fans who were becoming disoriented in trying to figure where rugby is headed.

Wales remain the only candidates capable of lending credence to the pipe dream that a country who has never won the RWC will do so in a fortnight in Japan.

Frankly the Dragons are extremely lucky to have got this far. Coach Warren Gatland's facial expressions in their last two matches go a long way to endorsing that.

The face of Wales coach Warren Gatland spoke volumes even two matches before the impending semifinal against the Springboks on Sunday. Photo/AP
The face of Wales coach Warren Gatland spoke volumes even two matches before the impending semifinal against the Springboks on Sunday. Photo/AP

Were the All Blacks, England and South Africa ghosting to boost the hype leading to the RWC as part of a PR understanding among the high rollers?

Perhaps a more logical way of ascertaining countries' worth is to borrow the Standard & Poor's credit rating system because lumping them into top and second-tier teams is an insult to discerning fans' intelligence.

The All Blacks, for argument's sake, are "AAA" unless they stumble in the next two playoff matches.

England can join them if they can do the unthinkable this weekend but for now they are in the "AA" muster with the Springboks.

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After that there is a yawning drop to the "medium credit quality" of "A" and "BBB". Enter the likes of Wales (definitely BBB), Australia, Ireland, France, Argentina, the "United Nations of Japan" (although the prudent will argue they belong to a pyramid scheme owing to their foreign legions) and, dare I say it, Fiji.

Scotland fall within the ambit of "junk bonds" (low credit quality) — along with others such as Japan, Italy, Tonga and Samoa — depending on whether World Rugby is sincere about addressing its farcical eligibility rules.

Can the Pumas and Fiji beat the likes of Scotland?

You see, therein lies the travesty of rugby. The governing body doesn't do enough to ensure there is some sort of continuity in teams playing against each other to draw any useful data.

Ideally, that means the Brits, France and Italy catching flights to the Pacific Islands to gauge their worth but the chances are pigs will fly first.

Consequently the Islanders will oblige, provided the lucrative European clubs will release their marquee players to negate rugby genocide.

Releasing a global seeding of 105 playing nations is pure embellishment. (Did you know world No 90 Swaziland and No 94 Pakistan play rugby?) They fall within the ratings of "BBB+" ( stable entities with robust capacities for repaying their financial commitments) to "BB-" ("speculative grade" who are even more vulnerable to variables).

For the code to make headway, it is imperative to end rugby apartheid. That is, adopt a laissez faire stance, with minimal intervention, to enable nations with fewer resources and platforms to have a fighting chance.

Instead, the propaganda on the benefits of welcoming Japan into the fold of the Rugby Championship and reversing the decision to end their presence as the Sunwolves in Super Rugby is gathering momentum again.

The fiscal might of the Brave Blossoms, it seems, will trump the growth and development of the game in impoverished countries.

The media is gaga about how the retail outlets are unable to whet the appetite of the red-and-white brigade with jerseys at $150 a bang.

Somehow weeping Japan players — they never had a chance of progressing to the semifinals even if, reportedly, the referee gave them a helping hand against the Springboks — warrants a complimentary ticket to a glimpse of an exclusive old boys' network.

If World Rugby was a little more attentive and compassionate it would have long heard the gnashing of teeth and rending of garment in countries teeming with talent and gushing with patriotism in the tropical Southern Hemisphere.

Japan shed tears after exiting but if World Rugby had its ear on the ground it would have heard the gnashing of teeth and rending of garment long ago in the tropical Southern Hemisphere. Photo/AP
Japan shed tears after exiting but if World Rugby had its ear on the ground it would have heard the gnashing of teeth and rending of garment long ago in the tropical Southern Hemisphere. Photo/AP

Rather we have advocates singing the praises of the number of Japanese fans turning out in droves, sporting foreign tribal colours — even in body paint — to make their rivals feel welcome.

Never mind that a fair whack of the multitudes in Japan have no idea what rugby rules are or, more importantly, that such Tupperware parties will eventually rob nations who actually give a damn about the game. Any fighting chance the faithful may have of seeing their talent compete live in their backyard for a fair price in a few years is dissipating.

Such ruminations are up there with pondering the myopic decision to host the RWC in a country where the typhoon season is at its peak and, ultimately, claimed 80 lives at the last count.

I said it many years ago and I reiterate — for rugby to prosper the All Blacks must lose on account of other nations keeping up with the play as the fish pond keeps mutating into a fish bowl.

A triple crown for the ABs will only feed an elitist ideology although exporting New Zealand coaches is a boon for other nations.

For what it's worth, I'm ambitiously picking the Poms to pip the ABs in the office sweepstakes but the Boks to douse the Dragons' flame for another four years.

The office sweepstakes rules have suddenly changed with double points up for grabs but I sit mid-table so not even a miracle will help me.

Here's hoping rugby's "untouchables" are not in the same boat as me.