I have been thinking about this for the last few weeks. The international game has always been on the cusp of expansion since the 50s when we established the first world cup. The SL war in Oz really set everything back and changed the mentality of the game there. RL in Oz has become like American sports like NFL, Baseball etc where they thrive domestically and create a rep structure around that.
This is highlighted by the obsession with origin and the clear view its the pinnacle of anyones career in RL. Clearly Origin is the best standard of RL going and hugely entertaining and popular. In fact I am even planning on going next year with some mates. However its good for Oz but not many others.
Union's WC started in 1987 in front of poor crowds and limited TV. 37 years later its the 3rd largest tournament after Olympics and Football WC. More importantly its going to be an Olympic as well as a Commonwealth sport meaning important markets like US, India and China will be opened up.
Our WC was a massive success and the OZ and European 4 nations was a huge chance for the game to build on that. Plus all the other intl events going on. For all the Oz is a superb spectacle and success its been vastly under promoted, no sponsors and off course limited TV coverage. The EU one didnt even get broadcast!! This was our chance to build and show off.
So where does that leave us. Australia will never see international RL development as a priority period. So lets get on without them. Sure they are a huge drawcard but that will change over time. in 1987 who would have said US RU team would play the All Blacks in front of 63k in Chicago, Italy being competitive in the 6 nations and filling 80k to watch the All Blacks in Milan and Argentina playing and beating teams in the Southern Hemisphere Championship. RU is at the point where there is good depth and increasing. Plus the game is managed by a true International RB and not the equivalent of the All Blacks.
If we ignored the Aussies how much depth would we have. I personally think that a 4 nations is still do able - England, NZ, Samoa & one off PNG, Scotland, France and so on. Stick with the rotation format so the same 2 or 3 for both hemispheres then the other 1 or 2 qualify. Move to 6 nations after the next WC
If you think about FIFA is a good role model here (the only time we will say that about FIFA), but they dont favour the big established players like the European behemoths instead they try to grow the rest eg WC in SA.
It may mean crowds and revenues are depressed for 10 years but the game over time would be way more vibrant and the revenue line from internationals and the club game would see exponential growth.
In this way we would have a chance of growing the game as we all want and we would leave these guys behind.