England and Wales have one final opportunity today to show that rugby union's traditional north/south divide has not become a chasm.
Forget Scotland. Their autumn programme ended with a humiliating home defeat against Tonga last weekend, which was followed less than 24 hours later by head coach Andy Robinson's resignation.
To a degree, forget Ireland. Their autumn schedule is also over, and while they performed impressively to down Rugby Championship newcomers Argentina, an average South Africa were too good for them.
Loading article content
On current form, the rugby public probably need to forget England and Wales, too.
England have lost at home to Australia and South Africa – albeit by a total of just seven points – but Wales are in an even worse predicament, finishing second-best against Argentina, Samoa and New Zealand, scoring three tries and conceding eight.
When the 2015 World Cup pool draw is made in London on Monday, the top three seeds will be New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, with in-form France completing the first tier.
If Wales lose to the Wallabies this weekend, they will drop into tier three for the draw, with resurgent southern hemisphere duo Samoa and Argentina joining the other countries ranked from fifth to eighth, England and Ireland.
Barely a month ago, all the talk was about England winning perhaps three out of four, Wales posting a similar performance, Ireland toppling the Springboks and Scotland continuing their form of last summer when they defeated Australia Down Under.
Mitigating factors will doubtless be trotted out, such as widespread injury disruption, an England captain who lost his bearings in the heat of battle, England's ridiculous purple kit, Scotland's garish shirts they wore against New Zealand, Wales being without Warren Gatland on match days, and so it goes on.
The truth of it, though, is somewhat simpler.
At key moments of key games, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa – not forgetting Samoa or the Pumas – have nailed it. No pussy-footing around, no errors, no wrong options, just an execution of what is required to ultimately win Test matches.
It has been tedious this week listening to Wales trotting out the statistic about them enjoying more than 70% of second-half possession against the All Blacks.
Yes, it was an impressive achievement, but lest it be forgotten, New Zealand led that game 33-0 after 48 minutes.
At that juncture, All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw could have been excused for thinking which M4 services he would have a coffee at on route to London the next day, rather than worrying about an outcome that was never in serious doubt.
Injuries have repeatedly kicked Wales where it hurts this season – that is an undeniable fact – and a lack of strength in depth in some positions has been exposed.
But no injury issues, however rife, could mask the poor basic skills on show against Argentina and Samoa, and by the time Wales started to play when New Zealand came calling it was too late – way too late. Anyone can attempt to grasp positives from any given situation, yet it is scores on the doors that count. You don't win a World Cup or beat the southern hemisphere giants by having some good stats, but scoring less points.
England, for all head coach Stuart Lancaster's impressively calm authority and his similarly sound assistants Andy Farrell, Graham Rowntree and Mike Catt, have not delivered.
Despite trademark strong organisation and quality preparation time at their leafy Surrey training base, they have possessed the cutting edge of a paper plate.
Australia and South Africa did what they had to do against them, and it was enough. One senses, though, that New Zealand will want to inflict maximum damage. It could be horrible this weekend.
Despite Wales' woes of recent weeks, there are some in the Principality confidently predicting victory against Australia. It smacks more of blind loyalty, rather than a realistic appraisal.
Wales are capable of winning, for sure, but the Wallabies, more often than not, find a way to extinguish the dragon's fire, having won 19 of the countries' last 22 meetings.
The final autumn scoreline on Saturday evening is likely to read Britain and Ireland 0 New Zealand/Australia/South Africa 8.
And if that statistic, which cannot be massaged in any shape or form, does not equate with a widening gap, then I am not sure what does.