New Zealand isn't a big country. It's a tiny little crop of islands in the South Pacific and our impact on the world is little to none. Yet we are the All Blacks, the All Blacks are us. Without rugby, New Zealand would be a lot less relevant than it is, which puts us in a weird position. Well not us, but the jokers that make decisions. Thank god.
Rugby is nowhere near a world game. It's played by nations all around the world but it faces the same challenge as rugby league in that there are a few good nations and plenty who aren't very good. The All Blacks are the best team in rugby, for the past million years they have been, but they are also the biggest brand in rugby. Forget the IRB, the All Blacks are rugby.
Forget about the IRB growing the game. That responsibility falls on the All Blacks, the New Zealand Rugby Union and, to some degree, the kiwi public. Whether we like it or not, it's our responsibility because ... well if you were an American, would you rather the All Blacks pay you a visit or the English? Duuh.
Responsibility doesn't sit well with some people but I think the people with the power understand that this responsibility could be very beneficial. If the All Blacks take a test to Russia, China, America, Japan ... anywhere, who do you think is going to be the benefactor? The All Blacks and the NZRU. There are millions of dollars to be made and those millions will be going in to the back pockets of the All Blacks and the NZRU, which I have no problem with.
I'd rather that than have to share the spotlight with the IRB and the Wallabies and the English and the French. Nah, stuff that. We're the biggest brand in rugby, without the All Blacks world rugby wouldn't be anything. So let's flex some muscle.
I don't really understand how playing a test ... or Super Rugby in Japan or America, could be viewed as a negative. If it's another test match, more travel, more work for our already over used players ... send some young guys. Yeah, fair play that's kind of cheapening the jersey, the treasured black jersey but wouldn't you rather see that jersey be used for a greater good? I mean if you're such a rugby fan, wouldn't you rather see a few thousand Japanese people loosing the plot at seeing the All Blacks in their town?
If you're relying on the Olympic games to spread the rugby gospel, you might end up disappointed. Sevens is awesome, a more level playing field ... but has Kenya become somewhat competitive in the 15 man version? The IRB will benefit from having Sevens at the Olympics, but will the All Blacks?
I think you can guess that I'm very pro playing games in Samoa, Tonga and Fiji. Not to grow the game, but to say thanks. We owe these nations a lot in so many aspects, whether it's the exceptional amount of players they have given not only the All Blacks but also provincial and club rugby, or if it's just simply buying in to rugby. Are we too big, too good, too cool to say thanks? C'mon now.
It feels like we treat rugby as our baby - no, you can't have bubba. Are we scared that if we spread the game too far, the world will catch up? Well I've got full confidence in our talent and our rugby knowledge that if say America turned in to a rugby nation, we'll still whip their ass. Don't be scared, be confident.
The growth of rugby is hugely beneficial to New Zealand as a whole. We need to embrace it or else we'll be stuck, we'll be stuck being the best at a sport that is played at a high level by a few other countries.