Celebrate, if you really must, the fact that Israel Folau and Ben Smith, the two greatest fullbacks in the game, will not be lining up in the forthcoming November internationals.

But while you cheer any short-term benefit, just be sure who will be laughing in the long term.

The pair are not injured, but are on sabbaticals agreed with Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby respectively.

In Smith's case, it is simply a continuation of the All Blacks' trend that has allowed Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and other heavyweights to take time away from the game.


At 31 and with 64 caps, Smith had it written into his contract that he could have six months off and, in August, he probably thought it wise to activate the clause when a concussion actually caused him to forget his wife was pregnant.

And Katie was not just a "bit" pregnant but 37 weeks. It should have been obvious to Smith, but evidently his bump was bigger than hers.

"Ben couldn't believe it and asked 'what are we going to do with two kids?'," Katie recounted last week. "I said, 'mate, we haven't got long to figure that out'." Walter was duly born three weeks later and now has his father on long-term parenting duty. Smith will return in February and believes he, too, will have breathed new life into his career.

McCaw is adamant he would not have made the 2015 tournament but for his half-year rest in 2013. "I was as fried mentally as I was physically," McCaw said. Two years later, McCaw was lifting a second Webb Ellis Cup.

Carter feels the same. There was an outcry in 2008, when NZR gave Carter permission to join Perpignan for six months and still be eligible for All Black selection.

One rule for him, another for everyone else. But Carter was not everyone else and that is why the All Blacks were desperate to retain his services.

Almost a decade on, it is viewed as such a success it has been hailed as the best idea the New Zealand game has come up with. What the All Blacks do, others eventually follow and Australia, initially against the idea, has allowed a few of its superstars the option.

David Pocock is on leave, having put the game into perspective by helping a conservation group in South Africa, while, after what he terms "11 years non-stop", Folau is also indulging in family time.


Expect all three to come back refreshed and firing. How long until the northern hemisphere cottons on?

There has been talk in the Wales camp of how Sam Warburton could benefit from a break and it will be intriguing to see whether the Welsh Rugby Union could make this work before Japan 2019.

There might also be the opportunity in the Irish and Scottish structures but, as far as England go, do not hold your breath - clubs have their boots pressed firmly on the windpipes. They want a 10-month season.

The players should walk out and insist on their own R&R: "rest and recuperation" not rugby and more rugby.

- Telegraph Group Ltd