How do the Wallabies break their spiral into sporting oblivion? By winning. How do they win? Dial-a-Kiwi! Well, okay, he's an Aussie but you get the picture ...

The Wallabies' three-test series against Ireland feels less like a sporting contest than a referendum on the future of Australian rugby.

There are times when winning would be nice, and other times when it is important. For Rugby Australia's (RA) beleaguered hierarchy, this is a time when victory is only slightly more desirable than food, oxygen and moleskin pants.

The problem is that, as the All Blacks found in Chicago in 2016, Ireland are nowadays very good at rugby, while the key figures in the Australian game are now more adept at beating up on each other.


Most significantly there is the ideological war for control of the game being waged on the pages of the national newspaper, The Australian.

The chief protagonist is Alan Jones, the combative former Wallabies coach and prime ministerial speech writer and now top-rating radio shock jock, who is running a relentless campaign to oust the RA administration.

Each week for the past two months, Jones has found a different way to say in 1000 words pretty much the same thing - the RA's Kiwi chief executive Raelene Castle is out of her depth, the game's growth is retarded by inflexible bureaucracy, the players and coaches are not being fully supported and (the unwritten subtext) Jones would fix the whole damn mess if anyone bothered to ask him.

This was only a mildly distracting sideshow until three weeks ago when Castle made the calamitous mistake of rising to the bait and replying to Jones' attacks. As acts of utter futility goes, this was like writing a heartfelt plea to a hungry crocodile in the hope it won't bite your leg off.

Worse still, Castle's reply was peppered with corporate double-talk and meaningless buzzwords which only strengthened Jones' narrative - that the Wallabies are bound so tightly by administrative red tape they could choke before the Bledisloe Cup. Not, as is customary, during the opening minutes of game one.

With public confidence in the RA undermined by pot-stirrers such as Jones and years of questionable management, there is also the associated battle for the moral high ground that followed Israel Folau's re-tweeted remarks that gays would go to hell.

This put Castle in the invidious position of having to bring Folau into line with the RA's policies on equal opportunity and respect, while not offending the star fullback's religious sensibilities lest he leave for league or overseas.

This in turn coincided with the return to camp of the intelligent and free-thinking David Pocock, whose beliefs about equal rights are so famously strong he pledged not to marry until his gay friends could also enjoy (or suffer, depending on your level of wedded contentment) the bonds of matrimony.

These contrasting views evoked images of Folau and Pocock standing in the corner of the sheds arguing about which flames were more suitable for homosexuals - those of a friendly backyard barbecue or those in hell.

Fortunately for Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, Pocock not only respects the lifestyles of others, but also their views.

So rather than taking a stick to Folau, he extended a generous olive branch giving RA a rare moment of peace.

Pocock is back from a 12-month sabbatical during which he spent time attempting to save wildlife in his native Zimbabwe.

This now seems an appropriate use of time with the Wallabies fighting with the white rhinoceros for top billing on the endangered species list.

The anguished internal feuding has not done anything to regain the hearts and minds of Australian sports fans who are - depending on your tastes - either spoilt for choice or divided and conquered by four competing football codes.

Rugby's now lowly place in that pecking order was clearly defined this week.

The lead-up to the Ireland game was deprived of promotional oxygen by league's State of Origin series and the Socceroos' World Cup preparations, while in the Australian Rules-crazed southern states a wallaby is a hazard on country roads, not a widely-recognised sporting symbol.

So how do the Wallabies break this seemingly unerring spiral into sporting oblivion?

By winning. How do they win? Dial-a-Kiwi!

Actually, Melbourne-born and raised Peter Samu is Australian. Even if the itinerant 26-year-old slept on more couches than a Kiwi backpacker before finding a footballing home in Canterbury and the Crusaders.

Samu might bolster the Wallabies' back row, but his press conference did not do much to instil confidence in Australia's development system.

"When I was playing at Randwick, I didn't have much knowledge of the game and being over in New Zealand has really helped me out with that," he said.

Should Samu's selection help the Wallabies achieve that desperately needed victory over Ireland, expect an urgent call from Cheika about other Australians being educated in New Zealand: "Have you got 14 more?"

Richard Hinds is a leading Australian sports commentator.