The autumn international window is upon us, the next World Cup is less than a year away and the rugby public should be getting excited about what lies ahead.
Instead, they are being fed stories about player release and disgruntled governing bodies that taste as stale as a loaf of month-old Hovis.
The Welsh Rugby Union is moaning that its English based players won't be made available to them in time for next year's showpiece. The French clubs who pay a few English players their wages are grumbling about Martin Johnson's hard-line stance over his men coming home for a training session. Does all of this sound like Groundhog day to anyone else?
The former Liverpool football manager Rafa Benitez came out with a rather interesting if cryptic analogy this week.
"White liquid in a bottle," said the portly Spaniard, "has to be milk." It actually makes sense. It means the same as the old saying: "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck." Put yet another way, if the obvious is staring you in the face, how long can you keep ignoring it?
The problem of the global season has been sitting in the IRB's in-tray for the best part of a decade. The Rugby Union calendar is as well-structured as the house that Jack built and it's the root cause of all of these spats between clubs and countries over who can have the players and when.
Is it really that hard to sort out? Well, unfortunately, yes, because the game when professional, money became its master. Fixtures were added, seasons extended, competitions created and sponsors demanded more bang for their buck.
The result is overworked players, laboriously long campaigns and administrators wielding crowbars to force open more gaps in the season to cram high-revenue earning international fixtures into the schedule.
It was my intention to present to you my new, gleaming season structure, replete with the Six Nations shifted to the season's end - apart from World Cup years – an end to the Anglo-Welsh Cup, a Super 15 style round robin Premiership rather than home and away fixtures, and a smaller Heineken Cup that excludes the usual whipping boys, leaving November clear for international fixtures unfettered by domestic competition and an end at a stroke to the problems of player availability.
Then I woke up, and realised if it was that simple, it would have been sorted out by now. Wouldn't it?
READ DANNY COYLE EVERY WEEK AT RUGBY.CO.UK
Date published :
22 Oct 2010 - 11:31:57