Things could start to ease up if, as expected, Australia are awarded the hosting rights to the 2027 Rugby World Cup. RA boss Andy Marinos floated a $50-60 million windfall from that tournament, but there will be earlier benefits too, from commercial partners willing to kick in more in the lead-up.
Banks is the latest in a long line of players heading for greener pastures. Reds forwards Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Angus Scott-Young are headed to Northampton in the UK Premiership, while Rebels and Wallabies hooker Jordan Uelese is also eyeing a move to the UK.
A hard-nosed look at that crop would note that none of them are players the Wallabies were desperate to keep, but they mattered to their Super clubs.
In the other column, RA have retained the likes of Jordan Petaia, Izaia Perese, Len Ikitau, James Slipper, the brothers Ryan and Lachlan Lonergan, Hunter Paisami, Darcy Swain and Andrew Kellaway. Kurtley Beale is coming home. If they can sign Reds prop Taniela Tupou on a multi-year deal they will have made their limited money work hard for the Wallabies.
But Banks’s move, expected to be formalized in coming weeks, hurts because it spotlights the harsh reality of Australia’s place in the global marketplace, which brings into focus the longer-term question Australian rugby must confront.
What is the future of SANZAAR, the once-powerful southern hemisphere bloc that dominated consecutive World Cup knockout stages and presented a united front against the powerful and entitled Home Union?
Later this year RA, New Zealand and Argentina will begin to press their SANZAAR partner South Africa on its intentions beyond 2025, which is when the current Rugby Championship broadcast deal expires.
All indications are South Africa want into the Six Nations and, despite official statements rejecting such a move, the wishes of the tournament’s private equity masters CVC Capital Partners could prove decisive.
A southern hemisphere block without South Africa would be dangerously weak. Financially, because South African broadcasters are the biggest contributors to the rights deal, and on the field in the eyes of jaded fans. Australia and New Zealand will be forced back to the drawing board, which could explain why an annual north vs south Test championship is being pushed hard by SANZAAR.
As it stands, South Africa’s decision has the power to shore up SANZAAR’s position – and therefore Rugby Australia’s – or plunge it into peril, pushing RA and New Zealand further to the fringes of world rugby’s economic and political axis of power.
A British and Irish Lions tour and a World Cup will be a significant sugar hit in a short space of time, but money alone will not solve all Australian rugby’s problems, least of all the future of the next Tom Banks.
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