Three New Zealand rugby greats packed into Australia’s Super Rugby exhibitions in a searing study broadcasted on TV across the trench on Sunday.
All Blacks Jeff Wilson, Sir John Kirwan and Justin Marshall mourned the quantity of top Australian players abroad and anticipated more one-way traffic when the Australian and New Zealand Super Rugby Pacific sides meet for hybrid installations in late April.
Wilson went to the extent that adage Australia should drop a group or be supplanted by new contestants Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua, the last option of which beat a rudderless Melbourne Rebels side 31-26 on Friday night.
“I Just believe there’s a genuine risk on the off chance that they don’t figure out how to keep a greater amount of their ability,” Wilson told Sky Sport’s The Breakdown program.
“I know various under-20s players who, when they’re 21 or 22, go to Japan. I believe they actually should figure out how to change their profundity or they need to drop a group, since we have several groups that set their hands up toward the end of the week and they can play.”
Watch every match of the Six Nations and Super Rugby Pacific on the Home of Rugby, Stan Sport. Super Rugby Pacific continues this weekend with Rebels v Brumbies (Friday 7pm AEDT), Reds v Fijian Drua (Saturday 7pm AEDT), and Waratahs v Force (Sunday 1:30pm AEDT). All streaming ad-free, live and on demand only on Stan Sport.
🕊️ Today we farewell Fesola’i Va’aiga Tuigamala.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) March 11, 2022
But it will also not surprise any Australian fans, who have long lamented the loss of many of the country’s top players. While Australia could claim two or three names in a list of the top 10 highest-paid players in the world, only one of those – Hooper – plays in Australia.
And while the European and Japanese professional leagues get richer, Australia’s Wallabies and Super Rugby contracting budgets have shrunk as Rugby Australia’s top brass ripped cost out of the business to save the code during the Covid-19 crisis.
The lightning rod for Sunday night’s discussion was the Rebels, whose poor start to the season has perplexed and horrified observers on both sides of the Tasman.
Missing injured players Kellaway, Reece Hodge, Rob Leota, Trevor Hosea and Pone Fa’amausili, the Rebels are also missing the quality of Wallabies Dane Haylett-Petty, who retired, and Isi Naisarani and Marika Koroibete, both of whom took contracts overseas.
Their loss to the Drua on Friday might have delivered a feel-good moment for Fiji fans, but it was not looked upon kindly by the New Zealand panellists.