Of all the developments in professional rugby, the cash-cow milking exercise that is the November internationals is one of my least favourite.
To my mind in sport at the elite level the golden rule is less is more and over the last decade Test rugby has become cheapened by this shameless pumping of the public’s purses.
And let’s not be fooled into thinking that wrapping the whole thing up with some marketing speak into an ‘‘Autumn Series’’, adds anything to the sporting calendar.
The impending matches against New Zealand, Australia, Samoa and South Africa are ad hoc, stand-alone entities between an England side at the start of its season and the Tri-Nations teams at the end of theirs.
However, their existence this season is propitious if only for the fact it represents the national team’s last exit between now and next year’s Rugby World Cup.
Manager Martin Johnson and his coaches have been told they can continue along the road to New Zealand if his side wins twice.
Failure to do so, which in reality means not defeating any of the Sanzar countries, could see England call in at the next service station to change driver.
After all, if there is to be someone other than Johnson to steer England towards regaining the Webb Ellis Cup, that person will need next year’s Six Nations and the summer warm-up matches to stand any chance of success.
So for the next month all eyes will be on how the former captain and his charges do against the best the world can offer.
Victory this weekend over the All Blacks would be stunning, though one has to say unexpected. Australia managed to subdue Graham Henry’s men in Hong Kong last weekend and England beat the Wallabies when the sides met in June.
But unfortunately rugby doesn’t work that way. Australia possess wit and imagination far in excess of anything England have shown since 2003 and where they have Matt Giteau and Adam Ashley-Cooper in the centres, Johnson has called on the trundlers Mike Tindall and Shontayne Hape.
Expect then to spend the next three weeks watching white jerseys with a ball stuffed up them and ask yourself ‘‘Is that the way to win a World Cup?’’
And whatever you do, don’t forget to pay royally for the privilege.