It's ironic that a few weeks ahead of two of the most anticipated November tests in decades, rugby bosses are in Sydney contemplating plans to introduce a radical new format for the international game.

The charge is being led by World Rugby deputy chairman Gus Pichot who has suggested insolvency is on the cards for a handful of major unions unless international rugby is revamped both in when it is played and how it is structured.

Pichot has floated the idea of amalgamating the June and November test windows to create an elongated space for some kind of inter-hemisphere tournament, run in cross-Equator pools with knock-out rounds.

It is a concept not without appeal but the viability of the proposal diminishes the more the detail is examined and while Pichot has been refreshingly dynamic and invigorating since he took the role, this particular idea of his is one that needs to meet quite stiff resistance.


If there is one thing rugby executives around the world should have learned by now, it is that less is more.

The two biggest ticket items in the game are the World Cup and British & Irish Lions – both of which only come around every four years.

And if there is further proof that four years is the magic time to wait, then surely it comes in the fact that the All Blacks haven't played England since 2014 and tickets for their November clash at Twickenham have been sold for record prices and the stadium could have been filled five times over.

Pichot is right that things have to change, but perhaps not as radically and as decisively as he has proposed.

World Rugby vice-president Agustin Pichot. Photo / Getty
World Rugby vice-president Agustin Pichot. Photo / Getty

Does the game really need what will effectively become a mini-World Cup three years out of four?

The danger with that is not only will it diminish the value of the actual World Cup, but it is conditioning the market to believe that all test football needs to be framed in some wider competitive format.

There are also questions about how the lower-ranked Tier Two nations will ever become a part of this concept and presumably some radical thinking needs to happen on how the revenue will be equally shared.

It's a headline grabber but nothing else and while it's good, healthy even, to explore new concepts, hopefully all those with decision-maker power in Sydney will realise that the current set-up can't be all bad when 82,000 people have paid top dollar to cram into Twickenham to watch a test match that will have nothing more than pride on the line.


This desire to inflict radical change is frustrating, too, because earlier this year global agreement was reached to shift the June test window to July from 2020 and with that the Southern Hemisphere had about the perfect season set up.

It may have felt like the season structure was broken and hopeless South of the Equator and in need of a dramatic overhaul, but really, that one decision to jump the June tests to July pretty much fixes everything.

That one change means Super Rugby can start in mid-February as it always does and be played in one uninterrupted bloc. That's one huge problem eradicated right there.

As much as there is a problem with the format of Super Rugby, it's made worse by the fact that the competition has to be put on hold – just as it is typically becoming interesting – while international rugby is played.

Not having to stop for three weeks won't fix Super Rugby entirely but it will create more logical flow and less peripheral distraction.

The players will be given a two-week break before playing the usual three tests in July, which means there will be no need for invasive All Blacks training camps to be held in the midst of Super Rugby.

There will be another two weeks empty between the July tests and the start of the Rugby Championship and then half of October and all of November would sit free for New Zealand Rugby to fill those five-to-six weeks however they see fit.

The agreement made earlier this year would see the All Blacks committed to playing at least three tests against Northern Hemisphere opposition as they currently do and there would then be the possibility of adding another Bledisloe Cup fixture and or revenue-generating tests against premium Tier One opposition or the prospect of being a little creative and finding ways to play more Tier Two opponents to provide suitable games to blood emerging players.