COMMENT

School reports don't get much worse than this.

It was like "class clown" was scrawled over every page. Statistics showed playing numbers are plummeting in Auckland, and the same is happening elsewhere.

New Zealand Rugby commissioned an independent review into schools rugby, even before the Auckland first XV revolt against St Kentigern College came to light.

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Rugby deserves a C-minus for its school work, judging by the review findings released this week. And even then, the review fell woefully short by failing to include incredibly significant wider influences.

It's time to sack the principal, in my opinion. In other words, it is time for Steve Tew to depart as head of New Zealand Rugby.

Tew will go down as one of the great administrators in our sports history. He is the iron man.

But the school report, released this week, reflects a game in serious trouble.

What the review was really saying, in a way, is that rugby is out of touch.

The only positive area in schools was girls rugby. But this simply mirrors what is happening in other sports traditionally dominated by males.

Here is the real rugby report.

New Zealand Rugby commissioned an independent review into schools rugby, before the Auckland first XV revolt against St Kentigern College broke. Photo / Photosport
New Zealand Rugby commissioned an independent review into schools rugby, before the Auckland first XV revolt against St Kentigern College broke. Photo / Photosport

Super Rugby is a dud. Provincial rugby has lost its glow. Schools rugby is a mess. League is winning the war in significant parts of Auckland, even though the NRL is hardly in great health itself.

Auckland, the biggest market, is a rugby dead zone compared to what it should be. New Zealand players are flooding overseas. Crowds are sparse. Kids (and others) increasingly love American sport, fantasy leagues, e-sport.

Rugby is rushing an ambulance to the bottom of a cliff after the release of this week's review. It is like a doctor dealing with an injured body part without understanding the whole picture and considering an holistic solution.

Rugby was handed the national schools system on a plate many years ago, thanks to influential principals and teachers who were rugby diehards.

Yet with all the advantages, the national sport is making a pig's ear of this silk purse.

For those of us who can't stand the rugby arrogance, it's a laugh to witness boys quitting the game in droves. But from a pro-rugby point of view, the heat should now be on the game's top administrators.

Tew — for all of his strengths — has left the domestic game in a shaky state.

Fifteen-a-side rugby may well become more of a spectator than participation sport. But the drastic drop in school numbers still reflects that rugby lacks the glamour and accessibility which rising generations expect from professional sport.

In other words, American basketball superstar LeBron James is dunking all over rugby.

The All Blacks are magnificent. But the real state of the New Zealand game is masked by Super Rugby success, which relies heavily on an inept Australian administration, and the lingering horrors of apartheid in South Africa.

Rugby needs to get real, get in the modern age.

Tew has been in the top job since 2007, and a national administrator for 18 years.

The game's image has remained dour. Apart from the odd exception like the enlightened Chiefs halfback Brad Weber, it is still an archaic sport of remote stars and administrators ill-prepared for what lies ahead.

These problems stem from the very top, and obsessive central control.

No sport is beyond a crash. West Indian cricket and Australian tennis are prime examples of dominant forces which have collapsed.

History will judge Steve Tew fairly well, but only if he gets out in time. And the time is now.