A hollowness ran through the IRB's showcase weekend of test rugby - an awareness that the club game in these parts holds all the power and has the capacity to rain on the big parade.

The unprecedented 48 hours of international action was designed to give the minnows the top class fixtures they crave and to give the Brits a taste of what to expect at the next World Cup. This was the breakthrough moment, the time to celebrate that the IRB had finally thought beyond the self-interest and self-preservation mentality of their fading elite and given the emerging forces of Pasifika and Eastern Europe a decent crack at climbing the rankings.

Except that for all the good intention the governing body is still destined to fail in its quest.

The allegations that came out of France of leading Parisian club Racing Metro bribing Pacific Island players to miss last year's World Cup are a huge concern.


It wasn't a surprise to hear the claims - similar stories surface after every tournament. Since the dawn of the professional age, European clubs have pressured Tier Two international players in many ways.

Some clubs offer improved contractual terms if individuals agree before signing that they will not make themselves available for their nations at the World Cup. Other clubs write disproportionate financial penalties into contracts should international players feature at a World Cup.

And then there are the suspicions held by coaches of Tier Two international sides and other global administrators that some clubs just make verbal, plausibly deniable threats about the consequences of playing at a World Cup.

It is a minefield and one the IRB is effectively powerless to stop as they effectively admitted when they said they can only intervene if the affected nation makes a complaint.

The Pacific Islands need open, functional relationships with Europe's leading clubs and whistleblowing could be disastrous: the top sides will squeeze tighter and either make it a prerequisite that Pacific Island and other Tier Two players give up international rugby or they won't contract them.

The sad fact is that while Clause 9 around player release is legally binding and European clubs are happy to comply with it throughout November, serious doubt exists whether this will be the case come the cup because of the length of the tournament.

European domestic competitions will be in full flow and leading clubs wouldn't dare pressure Tier One players to boycott. But players from lower ranked nations can be more easily bullied and manipulated and the great losers once again will be the Pacific Island test sides.