COMMENT

Rugby executives will sell anything if the price is right.

They won't care that they spend a small fortune on PR flunkies to create glossy documents that say player welfare is their biggest concern only to sign off on a ridiculous World League concept that will take the best players on the planet way past breaking point.

It's astonishing how shameless the suits can be ... how easily and readily they can compromise if someone gets their chequebook out.

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Principles, it seems, are only that when there isn't a better offer on the table and the lack of integrity and honesty within the key decision-making councils of the global game isn't so much embarrassing as sad.

It's sad that the game is mostly governed by older white males who talk of player welfare in one breath and then announce they have sold it down the river the next without a hint of it sitting badly on their conscience.

Pale and stale? Alan Gilpin, Head of Rugby World Cup, Brett Gosper, CEO of World Rugby, Bill Beaumont, Chairman of World Rugby, and Agustin Pichot, vice-chairman of World Rugby. Photo / Getty
Pale and stale? Alan Gilpin, Head of Rugby World Cup, Brett Gosper, CEO of World Rugby, Bill Beaumont, Chairman of World Rugby, and Agustin Pichot, vice-chairman of World Rugby. Photo / Getty

It's sad that the game's leading executives deliberately didn't invite any player representation to Los Angeles last month to discuss the updated plans for the World League.

Even sadder that the plans to sign off on this deal are being accelerated, primarily with a view to getting the commercial contracts signed before the players have had a chance to say "no way".

And the players, universally, have said "no way" to the World League.

Why wouldn't they? The benefits of agreeing to it extend to one thing and one thing only – it will bring in as much as $14 million a season to each nation.

The downsides create a much longer list, starting with the inevitable destruction of the Rugby Championship into a joke competition.

Neither the USA nor Japan are anywhere near ready to regularly play the All Blacks or Springboks.

They aren't even ready to regularly play the Wallabies.

The credibility will die immediately and what is so crazy about this plan is that Sanzaar has seen how introducing new teams killed Super Rugby and now they want to do the same to their international competition.

Then, of course, there is the whole business of locking in the 12 teams for 12 years and saying to the likes of Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Georgia, Spain, Russia and Germany that they might as well give up – they will never have a seat at the top table.

Proud rugby nations like Tonga have been told - in no uncertain terms - they will never have a place at the top table. Photo / Getty
Proud rugby nations like Tonga have been told - in no uncertain terms - they will never have a place at the top table. Photo / Getty

And then there is the real kicker – the increased travel and playing burden.

The All Blacks will be looking at having to play five big tests in the last five weeks of their season.

No one should be confident they will maintain their success rate signing up to a schedule like that.

As evidence of how even the world's best team can be stretched too far, the All Blacks have lost three and drawn one of the last seven tests they have specifically arranged to play for money.

Last year they played five tests in the last five weeks of the season and won four. Would they perhaps have beaten Ireland had they not arranged an extra fixture against Japan on the way to Europe?

The All Blacks coaching staff didn't want to say anything publicly but the players were stuffed by mid-November last year and those who are at the coalface of the international game know that player welfare is the single most important facet driving high performance.

The executives to whom they report supposedly agree and yet while they make sporadic declarations of assurance that player welfare is their highest priority, they will do so while they knowingly work on new competition formats that have zero duty of care to the athlete.

But this is how the people running rugby want it to be. They want to be seen as the players' champions – endorsing plans to protect them from burnout and injury.

They like to be heard saying the right things – enjoy the thrill they get when the star players shake their hands and thank them for having their backs.

But they like money more and $14m a season is enough for them to forget the promises they have made to the players.

That kind of money is enough for them to play a duplicitous hand and so what is saddest of all is that there is not an executive in any of the 12 World League nations that has strong enough ethics to say that the welfare of the game's best players is worth more than $14m a season.