It feels now as if the Wallabies will this Saturday be playing to save Australian rugby with the retrieval of the Bledisloe Cup an incidental.

Rugby in Australia is in danger of becoming a ghost sport, a curious relic of the private school system unless there is some kind of dramatic statement of hope in the next two weeks.

After seeing their sport relentlessly hammered by what must seem like months, if not years of bad news, negativity, defeats, regression, bickering and bad judgement, Australia's rugby public need something to help them understand why they should retain their emotional investment in the game and the national side.

Thousands of rugby families across the country have obviously already given up on rugby - turned to one of the three other winter codes because playing numbers have tumbled as have crowds and broadcast figures.


Those who are grimly holding on to the declining hope rugby can again flourish in Australia really do need to see something from the Wallabies against the All Blacks.

Maybe they don't have to win, although that would be best, but Michael Cheika's team have to restore pride and optimism with their performance in Sydney.

There has to some sense that the Wallabies are making a stand, that they are the tangible embodiment of the pride that still exists. There has to be some hope that the clock can be turned back to a time when the Wallabies, even when the deck was stacked against them, could out smart and out play the All Blacks.

If it doesn't happen, if Saturday brings yet another processional, dominant All Blacks performance, the consequences could be significant. Ticket sales for the remaining tests in Australia could dry up - and they haven't been great so far as it is.

Fatalism could infect thousands more currently loyal fans, persuading them there is no point investing either financially or emotionally any more.

Australia's burgeoning sporting youth will have one more reason to see rugby as a dead end and broadcasters will have yet another price-lowering factor to consider when it comes to their next contract extension.

Exaggerating the state of chaos in Australia is no longer possible. To pretend these are not dark, dark times is dangerous.

Not one thing is going well for the game over there. Not one, not even the Olympic champion women's sevens team are holding their own and even if rugby isn't in terminal decline in Australia, it's going to take years to recover from it's current parlous state.


The punches just keep landing. The tumultuous weeks just keep coming. The drama seems never ending.

The last 14 or so days have been turbulent on a nearly unprecedented scale. Australia's one representative in the Super Rugby playoffs was bundled out, at home, in front of barely 10,000 people and by a performance that the Hurricanes rated as one of their weakest of the season.

Arbitration between the Western Force and Australian Rugby Union concluded last Friday and the former will now be axed from next year's Super Rugby.

It's a decision that has created out and out internecine warfare and taken numerous casualties. The Australian Rugby Union Players' Association responded to the decision by saying: "Today is the darkest day in the history of Australian Rugby with the custodian of the game confirming their desire to end the tenure of the Western Force and abandoning the game's national footprint."

ARU chief executive, Bill Pulver announced his resignation shortly after telling the Force of their fate. His position had become untenable and the game was further rocked the following day when ARU board member Geoffrey Stook stood down in protest at the decision to cut the Force.

There are bits and pieces of Australian rugby scattered everywhere at the moment. It's a horrible mess and and that could become almost impossible if the Wallabies are thrown by the All Blacks on to that same pile of broken parts.