It seems World Rugby have the bullet in the chamber and the gun pointed firmly at their feet with a steely resolve to pull the trigger.

The executive body running the global game won't be swayed from its belief that too much international rugby is "meaningless" and that there are too many "friendlies" reducing the value and impact of the wider test programme.

So regardless of the contrary evidence that slapped them in the face this November, plans continue to be fast-tracked towards creating some kind of new global format that will give more "meaning" to the June and November test windows from 2020.


A sort of mini-World Cup format has been mooted to provide greater context and therefore, so the logic goes, more reasons to engage with test rugby for longer.

In theory, the abstract stands up to scrutiny but World Rugby doesn't need to be working on theory when it can just look at the data pouring in from a month of field research which suggested test football is in great shape as it is.

Good luck to any executive brave enough to have walked into the Irish changing room after they had defeated the All Blacks in Dublin and tell them the fixture was meaningless.

Even better luck to anyone game enough to go into the All Blacks changing room after they had lost; or ditto, to have told the England players after their one-point defeat at Twickenham to New Zealand that none of it really mattered because it was just a friendly.

There's a deadly serious point to this which is - are the executives making these plans remotely worthy of being trusted?

Could they be any more out of touch with what fans want?

It was, by all accounts, almost impossible to buy tickets for the All Blacks clash with Ireland months before the game.

As atmospheres go, it's hard to remember there being a better one. The purity of the contest was all that was needed.


It was the All Blacks versus Ireland: No 1 versus No 2 in the world. It wasn't a friendly. It wasn't meaningless and to even suggest such a thing is a terrible insult to the players who drained themselves and to the paying fans who did much the same.

This scenario wasn't confined to that one game in Dublin either. Twickenham sold out four weeks consecutively and provided edge-of-the-seat drama in different ways.

In Cardiff, they were treated to a clean sweep by Wales who managed to lodge wins against Australia and South Africa that no one in the Principality is going to be convinced were meaningless.

Murrayfield was crammed for the test against the Boks and surprisingly well populated the week before when Scotland played Fiji.

And this is where the issue of being horribly out of touch comes in. What World Rugby really means when it says it wants to build more context to international games in June and November is that they want to contrive some kind of pseudo competition which they can flog to a sponsor for naming rights and up the supposed broadcast value.

And as every seasoned executive knows, if you can slap the name of an insurance company, bank, airline or brewer on a competition, then suddenly it has meaning.

Imagine how deeper the engagement would have been for the Irish fans had they not just beaten the All Blacks for the first time on home soil, but if they had also seen captain Rory Best lift aloft the Cheap Loans Cup?

It's not a proper rugby event, apparently, until there is a middle-aged, white, male corporate figure grinning inanely on a makeshift stage handing a trophy over to a bemused captain.

The respective June and November test windows aren't broken. They don't need a massive revamp or contrived element to them.

They just need some sensible scheduling. The All Blacks took on England at least once every year bar World Cups between 2004 and 2014 but hadn't played them for four years. Absence did indeed make the heart grow fonder.

It was a two-year gap since they had played Ireland, and rather than rip up everything, World Rugby probably just needs to get smarter about how often the top teams play each other.