New Zealand Rugby have a nuclear option when it comes to trying to establish a better season structure.

They can take the All Blacks off World Rugby's schedule and be their own masters when it comes to deciding against whom and when they will play tests. From 2020, they could be negotiating on their terms - demanding that if anyone wants to play the All Blacks they have to offer seriously good financial terms.

This all sounds positive, powerful and in keeping with the standing the All Blacks have in the world game. It's a scenario many will latch on to and help create the idea that New Zealand hold all the cards - but it's not that easy.

If NZR take the nuclear option, they will obliterate the All Blacks in the blast and leverage of that nature isn't any kind of leverage at all.


Rightly or wrongly, international rugby works on a reciprocal basis. When the northern teams come south in June, the hosts cover the visitors' costs - travel, accommodation, food etc - and keep all the ticket, broadcast and sponsorship revenue. The roles are reversed when the southern teams travel north in November and no one can see any need to change the system.

It just about works fine - the All Blacks play three home tests in June which nets them about $10 million a year and they return the favour by playing three up north in November. There is provision in the current model for the All Blacks to play extra tests under whatever terms NZR can negotiate.

This year they will be playing Australia in Auckland and Ireland in Chicago under negotiated terms.

The balance is about right - 14 tests in the calendar year against a variety of southern and northern opponents and the chance to both honour and work outside World Rugby's established system.

So how would the 2020 season look if the All Blacks pull out of World Rugby's schedule? They would have the Rugby Championship in its current slot, but what else? How exactly is this going to work?

There won't be new windows of opportunity in terms of for when test football can be played, because that is why the nuclear option will have been taken.

The options to play tests outside of the Rugby Championship will still be June and November. When it comes to the latter, say the All Blacks manage to dictate financial terms and play for big cash sums, what happens in June?

Are the northern sides going to give up huge portions of gate revenue in November and then not expect to strike reciprocal terms when they come south in June? Of course not, so whatever New Zealand gains in November they lose in June so what's the point?

New Zealand are unlikely to be better off financially, they won't have the longer off-season which is at the core of their desire to build a global season and they will have the uncertainty of not knowing who they will be playing in any given year.

The truth is the nuclear option would be a disaster for international rugby and whether it would hurt the Northern or Southern Hemisphere more hardly matters - the major unions would be damaged beyond breaking point.