It's difficult to believe World Rugby could be so dumb as to fashion a world league without any Pacific Island countries.

Rugby officials around the world have denied anything like that will go ahead — and it must be said that the leaking of the proposal is redolent of the age-old tactic of a disgruntled stakeholder: leak it, make a big noise, a bad smell and ensure the proposal ends up quietly buried in a shallow grave, killed off by public opinion.

It also serves notice to broadcasters that they do not control World Rugby. We hope ...


There is only one reason for Fiji — the ninth-ranked rugby power in the world — being discarded like an old coconut husk from the so-called World League (let's find a better name) of 12 nations, including the USA and Japan in this latest version.

Money, what else? If there is a broadcaster waiting in the wings to do the deal re the World League, their No 1 priority will be making money. They look at the lack of viable television audiences in the islands (translation: nothing in it for advertisers and sponsors) and the US and Japan are suddenly transported into the top echelon of rugby.

The previous iteration of the world league at least had a hint of fairness about it — 12 top nations (New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, Italy, Fiji and Japan) playing each other in 11 tests, either six at home and five away or vice versa.

There would be second divisions in Europe and the south — the latter maybe consisting of Canada, Samoa, Tonga, USA and Americas championship teams including Chile, Uruguay and Brazil. In Europe, teams like Georgia (ranked 13th in the world), Romania and Russia might fill the second division. Promotion-relegation would be vital.

While Samoa and Tonga were second division, that at least reflected recent results and standings; Japan, after all, achieved the feat of beating South Africa at the last World Cup.

But the USA and exposure to that vast market is catnip for broadcasters.

Which is why World Rugby has to stand up straight and be strong. The only deal they can do with integrity is to include the island nations. The money they negotiate with broadcasters has to be enough to cover the involvement of at least one, and possibly two, Polynesian teams in the top tier, regardless of perceived payback.

If not, no deal ... no world league. It's that simple. You don't make a sport global by getting out a can of spray paint and covering over certain countries on the globe.


What's happened now is that the outrage has already outstripped the reality — there is talk of boycotts of the Rugby World Cup and condemnation of the lunatics running the asylum. There's all sorts of panic — people like Sir Graham Henry going on TV to say that a world league could kill the World Cup.

Players point to the already crowded playing schedule, the increasing frequency of injuries and talk about player welfare.

There are answers — the sporting world is full of league competitions running alongside cup competitions. Heard of the Olympics? They are held every four years while track & field, swimming, rowing, cycling and most other sports have world championships, most held every two years. Doesn't seem to have harmed the Olympics too much.

If the world league ever happens, rest and rotation will have to play a big part. We might have to draw new boundaries for squads in a resolutely physical contact sport.

The answer, once again, is money, enough to cover a bigger roster — but the money has to come from somewhere.

This column seems to be in a minority in liking the idea of a world league in non-World Cup years.

What we have now, in the southern hemisphere at least, is repetitive and boring.

The Rugby Championship's monotonous scheduling has seen it become a parade of forgettable, sometimes seemingly identical, games clearly subservient to World Cup priorities.

Maybe the answer is to hold a world league every two years. That at least would allow space for some conventional tours and the World Cup.

So it comes back to money, yes, but also World Rugby and just how much they are custodians of their sport ... and not just salesmen.

But we now hear that Scotland and Italy vetoed promotion-relegation in the previous version of the world league, effectively cutting out emerging nations, including island countries.

Italy? Forgeddaboutit. No, literally, forget about it. The track record of the people running world rugby (ie, can't agree on anything) probably means the World League will never actually happen.