The chief executive of the Australian Rugby Union, John O'Neill, has called for sweeping changes in the way the game is run world-wide.
Fiji's Waisale Serevi remains one of the world's great players
O'Neill, who also ruled himself out of standing against International Rugby Board chairman Syd Millar, said the game stood on the brink of disaster.
Just one week before the start of the Rugby World Cup, he called for rugby's governing body to safeguard the future of smaller nations.
And he challenged the IRB to act immediately, saying: "There's an extraordinary dichotomy. If you care about rugby world wide, how could you not be worried about that situation?
"We cannot sit back and allow the gap between the rich and the poor to get wider."
Impoverished Pacific unions Fiji, Samoa and Tonga will appear at this world cup without their best players, many of whom play domestic rugby in England, New Zealand and Australia.
With the clubs providing their sole sources of income, many Pacific players have made themselves unavailable for selection.
Similar problems occur with players from Canada and Georgia.
Samoa coach John Boe has warned that Pacific rugby could become extinct if the problem goes unchecked.
Fiji coach Mac McCallion and Tonga's John Love have also criticised what they say is the inaction of the IRB, which says it has done all it can to help.
"Rugby would be tragically worse off if the likes of Samoa, Fiji and Tonga were not part of the international landscape, and that goes for many others," O'Neill added.