Rugby: Pacific nations may boycott World Cup over international snub

New Zealand rugby bosses are heavily involved in the new rugby calendar negotiations, but stress nothing has been confirmed.

"We've been working on a number of different concepts, the one that's been discussed most recently was less than 24 hours old and had some flaws in it, which we had pointed out and were going to be worked through," said New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew.

But just the whiff of a plan to shut out Pacific Island nations from 2020 onwards has players threatening to boycott this year's Rugby World Cup.

"As a players association, your strongest point of leverage is not to play and we believe this announcement strikes enough worry for that to be a real option," says Pacific Rugby Players Welfare CEO Daniel Leo.

New Zealand Rugby says it won't turn its back on the Pacific, saying emerging nations and player workloads are priorities. 

Fiji is currently the ninth-ranked team, but wouldn't make the cut for the new World League and could be locked out for 12 years.

"Promotion-relegation, certainly in the medium-long term, is certainly going to have to be on the table," said Mr Tew.

"There must be a pathway for the countries around us to get into the big competitions when they're ready."

Being 'ready' doesn't just hinge on ranking, but resources. 

Big commercial broadcast interests are clearly wooing the cash-strapped rugby business and that gives the United States power. 

According to former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry, it's all about cash.

"Well, that's the reason they're included in this new idea, because of the television sets and the money - Japan's the same."

But Sir Graham told The AM Show a yearly World League would be bad for the game. 

"I think it's going to kill the Rugby World Cup."

This year's World Cup in Japan will be a touchstone for growing new rugby audiences - but six months out, the build-up is focussed on politics over play.

That will make it all the more important that next month's World Rugby meetings move closer to a solution.