Ollie Ritchie: Ongoing NZ, Australia rugby spat downright embarrassing

OPINION: Given the way COVID-19 has crippled the sporting world, you'd think it might bring people together with a shared goal of ensuring the sports we love so much have a future in our lives.

But NZ Rugby and Rugby Australia seem hell-bent on doing the opposite.

Two of the biggest governing bodies in the game are going at it over the future of Super Rugby. 

Neither side is willing to concede and neither side is coming out of this looking good. 

In fact, it's getting uglier by the day. 

New Zealand and Australia are both proud rugby nations and over the years, both have enjoyed varying degrees of success. Both have played a vital part in Super Rugby since its inception in 1996.

The competition is forging a new future - both are keen to be involved, but things are at a stalemate.

New Zealand wants five teams, Australia also wants five teams. New Zealand thinks Australia should only have between two and four teams.

Australia has taken objection to that and is now threatening to go at it alone if its doesn’t get its way. 

Neither NZR or RA is ready to give in. Rugby Australia is even doubling down.

Reports suggest its now floating the idea of an Australian domestic competition that also includes the Sunwolves. 

Is Rugby Australia simply too proud to admit its just doesn't have enough rugby talent to put up five teams? Well, it only needs to listen to the words of a couple of former Wallabies to learn they might be on their own, if they are.

"The good players were too diluted across five teams to make any impact and we were reduced to doing a victory lap when we won a coin toss against New Zealand sides," former Aussie international Peter FitzSimons told Newshub.

"We've got enough talent for three, but we ain't got it for five and if you spread it too thin, they're going keep getting beaten like they have and then what happens when it comes to putting a Wallabies team together?" former Wallaby Greg Martin also tells Newshub.

"They're going to have no confidence."  

Now it's reached the franchises. 

This from Waratahs chairman Roger Davis in the Sydney Morning Herald: “They’re not the World Cup holders anymore... and look at recent games.

"The Brumbies were coming second in Super Rugby [before the COVID-19 shutdown]. If you take the Chiefs and Crusaders out of their success in Super Rugby, it’s a pretty poor record and the same as every other country.

"The Chiefs have won none out of five [in Super Rugby Aotearoa]. Maybe we should invite only four New Zealand sides?

"They're saying we’re not good enough, so I think we could say 'wait, you’re not good enough to play in our comp'."

You’d find more mature, adult discussion in a primary school playground. 

The simple fact is this: Australian Rugby isn’t strong enough to go at it alone, and whether it wants to admit it or not, it needs New Zealand. 

Now is the time for rugby to pull together. Instead, New Zealand and Australia seem more obsessed with pushing each other away. 

For the good of the game across the ditch - a game that is going backwards, with the Wallabies sitting seventh in the world and entering a huge rebuilding phase - Aussie teams need to play against our teams week in, week out.

But NZ Rugby has to cut the "we're doing you a favour by giving you a couple of teams" attitude. 

Chief executives Mark Robinson and Rob Clarke have another phone call later this week.

Let’s hope the games can stop and they can work their way towards meaningful progress.

But don't hold your breath. 

Ollie Ritchie is a Newshub sports reporter