In the wake of the Australian Government’s announcement to close its borders indefinitely, an opportunity has emerged for the Western Force to rise from the ashes to take on Australia’s Super Rugby clubs in a makeshift domestic competition.
Super Rugby was suspended indefinitely late last week as the impact of coronavirus continues to make itself felt worldwide.
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NZR chief executive Mark Robinson has outlined a proposal which could see all five Kiwi sides face off against one another over a 10-12 week period.
That plan comes with its challenges, though, especially with the Chiefs, Crusaders and Highlanders all currently in self-isolation after returning to the country from overseas, while the prospect of playing in empty stadiums can’t be overly appealing.
RA is looking at a similar concept, although such a competition within the Australian conference presents its own issues through the presence of the Sunwolves.
The Japanese club’s time in Super Rugby was scheduled to come to an end at the end of this season, but it may well be all but over already as Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will shut the nation off from overseas visitors at 9pm AEST on Friday night.
The move echoes that of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, which eliminates the prospect of a conference-based round-robin and Super Rugby finals series that RA chief executive Raelene Castle said SANZAAR unions were still hopeful of earlier this week.
“Yeah that’s one of the scenarios that we’re working at [a domestic conference competition] because of the fact that the travel restrictions mean the cross-border system doesn’t seem realistic, so domestic obviously leads the conversation,” Castle told media in Sydney on Tuesday.
Without the Sunwolves’ involvement, the idea of a conference-based system in Australia with the current Super Rugby sides becomes unfeasible.
Their misfortune, though, could open an avenue for a return of the Western Force, one of three sides who were culled from Super Rugby three years ago.
The Perth-based club have since been taken over by billionaire mining magnet Andrew Forrest, who established Global Rapid Rugby as a rebel competition to allow the Force and professional rugby in Western Australia to survive.
However, the first full season of Global Rapid Rugby – featuring teams from Fiji, Samoa, Malaysia, Hong Kong and China – has also been suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
With Australia’s border restrictions preventing any international travel between those sides, there may an opportunity to reintegrate the Force as the Sunwolves’ replacement in an Australian domestic competition.
Whether or not that comes to fruition remains to be seen, but Castle revealed that conversations regarding a new competition have included Global Rapid Rugby chief executive Mark Evans.
“We’ve had significant conversions with Mark Evans, who’s the CEO of Global Rapid Rugby, he’s been included in all the conversations that we’ve had to date,” Castle said.
“That is something that is a consideration in the discussions that we’ve had and we continue to keep Mark in those.”
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