Australia will toss aside New Zealand Rugby’s Super Rugby proposal and look to negotiate its own competition, as tensions heat up over the future of the sport.
Rugby Australia are currently in discussions with NZ Rugby over the future of Super Rugby, but RA are set to ignore a request to submit “expressions of interest” in New Zealand’s proposed new competition, according to RA chairman Hamish McLennan.
Last week, NZR outlined a future model for Super Rugby based on the results of the Aratipu Report, which favours a competition between eight and 10 teams including the five Kiwi franchises.
NZR said it has a “huge desire” to include a Pasifika team, while the rest of the competition will be made up by Australian rugby sides (between two to four teams).
Expressions of interest will be sought from Australia and the Pacific to join the five established Kiwi franchises from 2021 and beyond, and NZR may push to limit Australian involvement based on what it believes will be best for the future of the sport in New Zealand.
McLennan said he’s open to discussing a future competition with New Zealand but insisted that he will rebuff NZR’s current proposal.
“The expression of interest I’m not interested in and if they send it over I won’t open it,” McLennan told the Sydney Morning Herald. “If [chairman Brent Impey] and Mark [Robinson] want to chat with Clarkie and myself, I think next week’s the week to do it.”
Australia are reportedly now working on a plan B competition without New Zealand, an eight-team competition featuring all five Australian professional teams, as well as teams from Fiji, Argentina and Japan’s Sunwolves.
McLennan said RA’s preference is a 10-team trans-Tasman competition in 2021, where teams from the Pacific Islands and Japan could be added in the future.
“My preferred competition is trans-Tasman five and five and I even received a call last night from London from powerful backers wanting to invest in the competition,” McLennan said.
Speaking to Sky Sport‘s The Breakdown this week, NZR boss Mark Robinson said he remains open to listening to Australia’s needs in regards to any future Super Rugby competition.
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Several private equity firms are reportedly keeping a close eye on RA’s plans.
NZR’s plans have been met with criticism from many in the rugby world, with South African Rugby boss Jurie Roux recently hitting out at the proposed new competition for snubbing South Africa altogether while English pundits have accused New Zealand of “arrogance”.
Kiwi Super Rugby players have also voiced some opposition to NZR’s plans, with Highlanders pair Ash Dixon and Aaron Smith recently expressing disappointment over New Zealand’s split with South Africa, echoing Brad Weber and Bryn Hall’s warning against NZ rugby becoming too isolated.
Meanwhile, World Rugby yesterday confirmed a temporary international test window for later this year with plans to host the Rugby Championship in one country, most likely New Zealand.
Last week Robinson confirmed NZR is working with the Government to host the Rugby Championship through November and December in New Zealand with international rugby suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Those plans have been given the green light by World Rugby, with its executive committee confirming a temporary international window between October 24 and December 5.
The next step now would be for SANZAAR and NZ Rugby to work through the necessary process with the New Zealand Government, with strict border controls still in place.
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