Opinion: New Zealand cannot simply let Australian rugby die

Make no mistake, these are certainly dark times for Australian rugby, and New Zealand needs to do something about it.

Our Trans-Tasman rivals are in the midst of a real crisis when it comes to rugby - both on and off the field.

As things stand, the Brumbies sit atop the Australian conference of Super Rugby - and fourth overall - with just 11 points. In comparison, the Highlanders are currently bottom of the New Zealand conference with 14 points, meaning the best Australia can offer is effectively 11th on the overall ladder.

Now SANZAAR are set to chop at least one of their sides.

On the surface, it appears that the Force, Rebels or Brumbies will be axed.

Ben Smith of New Zealand is tackled by Michael Hooper of Australia. Source: Photosport

Dwindling numbers of players and fans are finally taking their toll on professional rugby in Australia, with the result nothing but bad news for the global game as a whole.

In recent times, the showings of both the Wallabies and their five Super Rugby sides have left their sporting public severely dis-enfranchised with what they're having to watch on a weekly basis.

So what can be done?

One answer could be scheduling matches between our first division Mitre 10 Cup sides, and those of the Australian National Rugby Championship, so that each level of our amateur / professional rugby, across the two nations, can square off.

Another is more fixtures between youth and schoolboy teams, giving both countries the chance to taste international competition regularly before the step-up to the domestic scene.

It could even be suggested that New Zealand coaches be shipped over to help at the grassroots level of competition.

In reality however, the solution is nowhere near that simple.

A survey from the Business Insider found rugby union to be the 26th most popular sport across the ditch, even behind the likes of 10 pin bowling and ballroom dancing when it comes to youth participation.

This has a disastrous trickledown effect on the Australian domestic game, kids aren't wanting to play rugby after being less than inspired to pick up a ball by their heroes in the green and gold.

Evidence of this can already be seen in Super Rugby, with second-rate Kiwi's like Jackson Garden-Bachop now first choice with the Rebels, and Wharenui Hawera starring for the Rebels.

Wallabies fullback Israel Folau. Source: Photosport

It's not that these guys are bad players, but Australian Rugby shouldn't be recruiting from the Mitre 10 Cup ahead of promoting their own stars of the future.

The question has already been asked as to where the next generation of Wallabies is going to come from.

Putting aside all notions of Trans-Tasman rivalry, New Zealand and Australia need each other and the same can be said for international rugby and the Wallabies.

While we do love to hate them, the All Blacks and New Zealand Rugby need Australia to be strong.

A weak Australia means a weak Rugby Championship, and a weak Rugby Championship means a weaker All Blacks side at a time when European rugby is threatening to climb to the top of the pile.

We've already seen South Africa begin to slip down the world rankings after a poor 2016, for the Southern Hemisphere competition's sakes the same thing can't be allowed to happen to Australia.