Wallabies halves crisis as stars defect
The Rugby World Cup in September could be the beginning of the end for the Wallabies as our biggest stars defect to Japan, plunging Australia into its biggest halves crisis in history.
Bernard Foley, Quade Cooper and Christian Lealiifano will be among a huge exodus of Test stars taking overseas cash at the conclusion of the tournament, leaving Australia's playing stocks paper thin.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal Foley is deep in discussions with Kubota Spears and is expected to announce a two-year deal soon, while Cooper and Wallabies halfback Will Genia will resume their Melbourne halves partnership at Kintetsu Liners for the next two seasons.
The developments come after Lealiifano confirmed earlier this week he will leave the Brumbies to join NTT Communications Shining Arcs.
That means that in 2020, Matt Toomua will be the premier five-eighth in Australia - even though he spends much of his time playing inside centre - while a host of rookies will battle to be next in line.
The departure of Genia and Nick Phipps - among four Wallabies joining London Irish - also leaves a gaping hole at halfback, with the returning Nic White and NSW's Jake Gordon the most likely to fill their boots.
Under Australia's Giteau Law, the Wallabies can recall Foley, Cooper, Genia and Phipps for Tests if required, however the local Super Rugby teams will be woefully short of experienced playmakers.
While Rugby Australia has moved to secure most of the next generation - nearly all of Australia's under-20s World Cup final team are signed to franchises - the mass defection of experienced stars this year comes at the worst possible time.
Australia is attempting to secure its financial future with a new broadcast deal beyond 2021 but heads into the next Super season without their most marketable players.
Israel Folau has been sacked, while David Pocock, Foley, Genia, Cooper and Samu Kerevi are among the elite group who bring fans through the turnstiles.
For the fourth successive year, Australia has managed to get only one team qualified for the Super Rugby finals, despite the conference system guaranteeing at least one finalist regardless of total points.
This system will also exist next year, before Super is cut to 14 teams from 2021 and a round-robin style brought back.
Regardless, the enormous player drain suffered by Australia, compounded by lack of depth and experience, will make it extremely difficult for any of the four franchises to overturn their feeble results next year.
SANZAAR nations are attempting to convince northern counterparts to sign off on a global league that would reap millions in additional revenue each year, vital for the sustainability of Australian rugby in particular.
So far there has been resistance on the part of the Six Nations countries.
SANZAAR's back-up option is the continuation of The Rugby Championship but with the addition of Japan and the United States.
However, local broadcaster FoxSports is already looking to cut expenditure on rugby beyond the 2021 broadcast agreement.
The lack of success by the Wallabies and Super teams, along with the possibility of the revolutionary proposal by World Rugby to introduce the Nations Championship falling through, would leave Australian rugby in a dire financial state.