All Blacks greats John Kirwan and Jeff Wilson have lamented the quality on offer in Australia during the early stages of Super Rugby Pacific.
There have only been three rounds in the competition so far, while cross-border matches have yet to take place, but Kirwan and Wilson have been left in little doubt as to where the respective teams currently stand.
New Zealand franchises have dominated their Aussie rivals over the past few seasons and it is looking unlikely that will change in 2022.
Australia aren’t producing the type of talent they had during the glory years in the 1990s and early 2000s, while their best players have often gone overseas, even in their prime.
Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete are both in their late 20s but plying their trade in Japan, with 31-year-old Rory Arnold still in France after signing for Toulouse in 2019.
The game needs superstars
“The number of quality players that they don’t have in Australia at the moment is definitely weakening their Super Rugby sides,” Wilson said on The Breakdown in New Zealand. “Michael Hooper’s not playing at the moment, Andrew Kellaway’s not playing, who was outstanding last year.
“But because they’ve got five teams and then you remove this level of talent from across those sides, I think it’s damaging their Super Rugby chances but also some of their confidence as players because they’re just not here to make these connections with these guys.
“And we need superstars in the game. We’ve got Ardie Savea on the top of his game; Will Jordan playing fantastic. At the moment I’m looking across the Tasman and I’m going where are they? Where are the game changers? Where are the guys that we want to come and watch so it’s going to be a more even competition?”
Kirwan believes that due to lack of talent in Australia they are unable to sustain five franchises and is adamant they need to cull one of them to develop as a rugby nation.
“We’ve had this conversation before about Australia dropping a franchise and they don’t want to do it, and it’s going to kill their own rugby,” he said. “You go over there and you have massive arguments, they tried to get rid of the Force … and we did, and they blew up, and they started playing in a different competition backed by (Andrew Forrest).
“They cannot afford to keep their pros…they have made a decision, and I think it’s the wrong decision because they’re letting their players play overseas, but it’s damaging their rugby. And they’re not going to have the courage to actually drop a franchise. And what’s going to happen? They’re going to get pumped again in this Super Rugby (season).”
Wilson agreed with Kirwan and pointed to some of their young talent, who are also signing for overseas-based teams.
“Well drop a franchise, they’ve got enough money (to keep players) if you drop a franchise,” Wilson said. “But what I’m saying is there is a number of U20 players that have chosen when they’re 21, 22, to go to Japan. They’ve gone ‘my future is over here, I’m getting beaten up every week’.
“I just think it’s really important that they find a way to change their depth or they’ve got to drop a team in a couple of years’ time, because they’ve got a couple of teams that put their hand up already on the weekend and they can play.”
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