New Zealand Rugby insists it has made no decision about its preference for a trans-Tasman competition to replace Super Rugby next year and hasn’t been pressured by Australian interests.
NZR chief executive Mark Robinson hit out at Australian media reports that his board were split over two possible preferred models – an open-border split of five NZ and five Australian franchises; or an eight-team competition featuring five from NZ, two from Australia and one from the Pacific.
Robinson said the board had yet to even see a copy of the independent Kiwi-driven “Aratipu Report” recommendations which will be unveiled publicly next week.
A report in the Sydney Morning Herald said Rugby Australia was poised to reject any proposal featuring three or less Australian teams.
Robinson said he had spoken to RA chief executive Rob Clarke earlier on Thursday and received no steer on his preference for 2021 and beyond.
“There’s nothing we’re hearing about what they would and wouldn’t be open to at this stage,” Robinson said.
“I’m not aware of what Australia are particularly focused on in that area.”
Robinson said suggestions his board were split was “absolute nonsense” along with suggestions the Sanzaar joint venture was on the verge of being dismantled.
He indicated Sanzaar may not be the governing entity of the Super Rugby replacement, depending on what format it takes, but would continue to oversee the running of a Test tournament.
Robinson confirmed Sanzaar was investigating staging this year’s Rugby Championship in Australia and/or New Zealand.
He said NZR had pitched to be a sole host of the tournament but would buy into whatever worked best in a COVID-19 environment.
Trans-Tasman talks remained “dynamic” on staging a Bledisloe Cup series, he said.
"We had the men’s World Cup here in 2011 and the whole country got in behind it, and we hope that happens for the women’s World Cup as well."@BlackFerns halfback @kenj0119 spoke with @TomVinicombe about her time representing NZ and Canterbury.https://t.co/5of1s8Viyi
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) July 9, 2020
However, the touted prospect of an All Blacks-Kangaroos hybrid match in December was fading as a prospect, primarily because N ZR had received no recent updates from rugby league officials.
“We’re not actively working on this. It would be fair to say the ball is firmly in the court of the NRL at the moment,” Robinson said.
“They might have got cold feet, we’re not sure. It’s quiet at present and that’s OK with us. We’ve got lots of things to work on.”
– Daniel Gilhooly
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