Rugby needs to have a plan in place over its future both on and off the pitch ahead of the 2019 World Cup if it is to survive, warned World Rugby Vice-Chairman Agustín Pichot.
The 44-year-old Argentina rugby legend, who is seen by many as the natural successor to present World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont, told The Guardian he does not wish to be party to the sport he loves going to the dogs.
"If you ask me as a businessman, the business side of it is not working," Pichot said. "If you ask me as the playing side, it's not working. Is the international game under threat? I think it is. Look at the balance sheets of some nations and you can see exactly where we stand," said the former Pumas captain and scrum-half.
Pichot, who has been in his current role since 2015 and whose mandate comes to an end after the World Cup in Japan, admits a certain amount of progress has been made but much more needs to be done.
"By the 2019 World Cup we need to have a blueprint for the next 10 years," he said. "On a scale of one to 10, I think we’re four out of 10 now [in terms of finding a solution] but before we were not even on the chart. We need to push that needle from four to at least six or seven. I'm not going to be an accomplice to rugby’s ruin."
'Biggest problem is egos'
Pichot, who captained Argentina to the 2007 World Cup semi-finals, is not best pleased that, having reached an agreement in San Francisco 18 months ago to overhaul the international calendar up to 2032 to have summer Tests played in July instead of June (to give players more time to rest), England's Premiership rugby have now said they will now extend their competitions into June.
New talks are due to take place in Sydney later in September on how to make Test rugby more practicable -- several countries are failing to fill their stadia for home matches -- with among the proposals the amalgamation of the existing June and November windows into one block.
"It's all a trade-off and who pays for that? The players," said Pichot. "I felt that Premier Rugby didn't honour what we said in the San Francisco meeting. At the end of the day we wanted that shift [of the Test window to July] to give international players a rest if they were playing too many games. That for us is the most important thing. My view is that players cannot carry on playing as they are now. You cannot have them playing 30-odd competitive club and international games just because you want bums on seats."
Pichot believes he is just the man to take on this battle on behalf of the sport which turned him into a star.
"The biggest problem – in business and in sport – is egos," said Pichot. "I don't have that problem. Premier Rugby is a big problem but I'm not so emotionally involved. We're going to give it 130%."