The pizzazz, celebration and hype of the 6th Rugby World Cup, which begins in Paris on Friday evening, masks a game approaching a crisis in its history.
Obscure your view of reality and all you will see will be finely honed young men of impressive physicality running faster, hitting each other harder and drawing more support for this gladiatorial exercise than has ever been known.
Ever greater sums of money are pouring into the sport from TV and sponsors. So isn't the game great and isn't the world of rugby marvellous, circa 2007 ?
Frankly, no, is the answer.
The game has never been more boring to watch because today it revolves no longer around skills but huge men running into each other, crashing to earth and re-cycling the ball for one of their team mates to do the exact same thing. Maybe, just maybe after about the 9th or 11th phase, you might see someone actually get the ball in the back line and do something constructive with it. Either that or the game is stopped and a penalty is kicked.
Studying paint drying can be about as interesting.
As that great Frenchman Jean Pierre Rives joked a week or so back as we sat together discussing the game beside the Mediterranean, " In my day, you had to run after players and catch them to make a tackle. Now, they come looking for you with the ball so you just stand there and wait to tackle them. What a stupid game."
So now comes a World Cup of unbelievable longevity?
How this sport can justify over six weeks of crunching collisions, incessant penalty kicks and such like for just 20 teams, I don't have a clue. The 2006 FIFA soccer World Cup was contested by 32 countries and lasted just a month.
Rugby squads today are far bigger so the argument about needing time to rest is bunkum. The reality is, the old guard who still rigidly cling on to power in the game will enjoy their 6-7 weeks of luxury in 5-star hotels, sipping the finest wines and devouring great plate loads of Gallic cuisine.
But how does that square with a professional sport? And what of the amateur arm of the game, sadly neglected, withering and dying in some countries because of insufficient care and attention.
The IRB is understandably far too pre-occupied with administering and running the professional sport to be distracted by the needs of the amateur game. But the latter plainly needs considerable attention if it is to be saved. A separate administration should be set up to run amateur rugby.
Ironically, there has probably never been a World Cup in which there have been so few genuine contenders actually to win the tournament (New Zealand, South Africa and, possibly, France) but so many erratic, unpredictable sides who are really not that good (England, Australia, Ireland, Wales and Argentina) who just might upset any opponent on a given day.
Hopefully, that unpredictability will maintain interest throughout the marathon. It needs to because with tickets for some pool matches costing as much as £200, and £330 and more for the final, actually going to France, staying in a hotel, eating out and attending a game or two is going to require the bank manager's approval of an extended mortgage.
Is rugby football worth all this? The 2007 World Cup is going to have to be one hell of a spectacle to justify all this excess.