LYON, France -- New Zealand rugby can take no pleasure from the Wallabies' pain.
Kicking Australian sports teams while they are down has long formed a favoured Kiwi pastime. On this occasion, though, there are instead pangs of sympathy and dread as Australian rugby contemplates its bone rattling rock-bottom moment.
The Wallabies plummeting to new depths, after losing to Fiji and Wales to surely seal their imminent Rugby World Cup exit at the pool stage for the first time, is expected to spark widespread ramifications for the game Down Under.
Rugby in the professional age is big business. This is where one of the major pressure points continues to boil for Australia and, as a result of their intrinsic relationship joined by the Tasman Sea, New Zealand rugby too.
In simplistic terms the Wallabies recurring problematic cycle stems from a lack of broadcast and sponsorship funding. This, in turn, leaves every level of the game -- from the grassroots to the Wallaroos -- crying out for funding. Less funding means fewer resources to attract more players which leads to a shallow talent pool for the Wallabies and, ultimately, the steady decline in Test performances we are now witnessing.
Australian rugby is working from a worryingly low income base. That's about to get worse before it gets any better.
In another alarming recent development, the private equity tender was pulled as neither Silverlake nor CVC would meet the desired $250 million buy-in threshold. Rugby Australia, having already received a massive loan advance from World Rugby on this year's World Cup fee, now intends to raise millions more in debt to cover mounting costs.
Murmurings suggest Australia's broadcast deal with Nine and Stan Sport -- worth a lowly $33 million annually -- is likely to take a further hit in the wake of the Wallabies' woes when it expires in 2025.
Contacted for comment about their partnership with Australian rugby, Stan Sport declined to comment.
While the 2025 British & Irish Lions tour and 2027 home World Cup promise cash bonanzas on the horizon, Australian rugby could be on the brink of financial ruin by that point.
New Zealand Rugby already pays Rugby Australia around $[NZ]7 million each year as a means to compensate for the inequity in their respective broadcast deals (NZR earns $[NZ]100m annually from Sky). Now with their closest partner on the verge of further financial strife, NZ Rugby could soon find RA pleading for more assistance.
From a pure Wallabies perspective Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan is highly culpable for this disastrous World Cup campaign.
The Wallabies weren't world beaters under Dave Rennie. They were, though, a long way from embarrassment.
McLennan's decision to sack Rennie -- and fork out a hefty payout for the final season of his contract -- appeared a major misstep at the time. Losing highly respected Wallabies forwards coach Dan McKellar was just as big a blow.
Eddie Jones was trumpeted as nothing short of a messiah -- a notion that has proved a fallacy to the point of propaganda. The Wallabies are 1-7 under Jones, with their sole win coming against Georgia. From the bizarre squad selections to the rotational captaincy to their worst World Cup defeat and largest against Wales, Jones' five-year tenure is in tatters.
McLennan must accept full responsibility for that sorry state. Even if he wanted to, McLennan can't afford to remove Jones now.
Australian rugby concerns are New Zealand's to bear. From Super Rugby Pacific to the Rugby Championship and two-decade dominance of the Bledisloe Cup, New Zealand rugby needs Australia to be strong. The reality is that hasn't been true for some time which has bred apathy among fans and a new generation of players lacking consistent, hardened competition.
The only hope now is the blinding spotlight searing Rugby Australia ushers through genuine, meaningful change.
New Zealand has its own domestic issues to confront before the year is out but regular competition against weak Australian Super Rugby teams -- the Brumbies the obvious exception this year -- is not preparing the All Blacks for the test arena. The same is true for the Wallabies while their five teams significantly dilute their competitiveness.
Strengthening the base, forging greater alignment at all levels and reducing the number of Super Rugby teams would compress quality and cohesion. Look at Ireland where centralisation remains a pillar in their system and Leinster have long formed the backbone of the national team.
ESPN is aware of a number of former Wallabies and RA officials who privately believe cutting at least one team would be in Australia's best interests, despite the furor the decision to axe the Western Force created in 2017.
For the All Blacks and Wallabies there is a direct correlation between South Africa's exit from Super Rugby, and the decline in recent Test performances. Both nations need Super Rugby to regain a genuine competitive edge or the gulf between that level and the elite Test arena is at risk of continuing to grow.
"We're in the same competition as them and we need their level to be very high," All Blacks defence coach Scott McLeod noted this week. "We want to push each other so we can get ready for Test matches during the year."
The Wallabies' fall from two-time World Cup champions to facing a fight for survival can't be a lone battle.
Far from relishing Australia's stark decline, New Zealand is watching, waiting, hoping swift solutions -- that don't include splashing cash on unproven league players such as Joseph Suaali'i -- can be found to this confronting plight.