A group of former All Blacks and rugby identities is lobbying New Zealand rugby to make profound changes to the way rugby is played and run, fearing the grassroots side of the sport is sliding towards a slow death.
The group, headlined by former captains Ian Kirkpatrick, Andy Leslie, Dave Loveridge, Alex Wyllie and Stu Wilson, and including Earle Kirton, Mark 'Cowboy' Shaw and Allan Hewson, has held several meetings in Wellington to discuss aspects of the game they have found increasingly alarming in recent years.
In a series of conversations with the Herald over the past week, Kirkpatrick, one of the finest flankers to have played for New Zealand, said the game he loved has become "unattractive, unsafe and ridiculously gladiatorial".
While he said he wasn't a spokesperson for the ad hoc group that has been assembled by Wellington businessman and long-time sports identity Doug Catley, he felt compelled to talk freely about the modern game's shortcomings in the hope it will generate discussion and, ultimately law changes.
Kirkpatrick said he broadly supported the issues raised in the United Kingdom by a group calling themselves Progressive Rugby – who are calling for less contact trainings and fewer substitutes among other things - but he wanted to go a bit further and examine the way the game is played.
The 74 year old who made the All Blacks out of Poverty Bay said the emphasis on the breakdown, the collisions and the physicality had become over the top.
"The way the midfield is cluttered up; it's all about defence," he said.
"It's just a series of heavier and heavier guys running faster into each other. They say the game has got faster but it's sped up going sideways, not going forwards.
"The amount of collisions in the game now is crazy. You have a couple of big guys commit to the breakdown to try to win that collision and then the rest fan out across the field and wait for the next one. It all revolves around the advantage line. There's no space.
"The game has always been physical but it's got to a ridiculous point now and it doesn't need to be like that."
Kirkpatrick is anxious to avoid sounding like an old man viewing the past through rose-tinted glasses. He acknowledged the game was always going to change with the advent of professionalism in 1996 but does not blame money for the game's woes, rather the "league"-type coaching players were receiving.
He says the first five to 10 years of professional rugby were the best the game had ever seen, but now doubts whether the sport would have any room for a Christian Cullen.
Kirkpatrick doesn't claim to have all the answers, neither does the group of ex-players he sits with, but believes big rule changes are needed to move the emphasis away from the collision.
"The bottom line is the way the game is played now is not encouraging parents to let their kids play. We talk to parents and the message that comes back is, 'Why would we put our kids through that?' "
Kirkpatrick worries for the safety of the modern player. He still has full mental faculty but he knows plenty of peers who don't and says the problems around concussion and the long-term effects of head injuries are going to get a lot worse before they get better.
"That's a big worry. We have to find a way to avoid all the collisions."
Kirkpatrick's anxieties about the state of the product feed into the larger concerns of Catley's group.
Catley, who described modern rugby as a game of "invasion, not evasion", said their major concern was the state of grassroots rugby. He said the drop-off of players between school and club was an indicator that too much emphasis had been placed on the professional "product" to the detriment of the sport as a whole.
In an advertisement in his local newspaper, Catley sought views from the public as to how the game could be changed in a way that would reinvigorate the sport at all levels.
He told the Herald that he wants New Zealand Rugby to be a leader in the change but it had to be board-driven, not the sole responsibility of the current administration led by the "very busy" chief executive Mark Robinson.
Catley quoted the late US president Ronald Reagan when asked what the group's motivation was: "People in the future will ask why those with the most to lose did nothing."