While all the talk has focussed on a Pacific Island team based in New Zealand joining Super Rugby’s replacement next year, it appears that a sixth NZ franchise is also a very real possibility – especially when it’s bankrolled by the man already propping up one of Australia’s teams.

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Andrew Forrest, the mining magnate who’s almost single-handedly kept the Western Force afloat since they were vanquished from Super Rugby at the end of 2017, is backing a bid from the Bay of Plenty union to join New Zealand Rugby’s new competition, set to start as early as next year.

Bay of Plenty and the Chinese Rugby Football Association have already teamed up to form the China Lions, who were set to play in Forrest’s Global Rapid Rugby competition this year. They managed just one match against Fijian Latui before the competition was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Now, the two unions are again teaming up with Forrest to launch an audacious bid to join New Zealand’s five existing Super Rugby franchises, according to reports out of the New Zealand Herald.

With the Western Force likely to re-join the other Australian sides moving forward, Global Rapid Rugby could be set to end before it every really began. That would mean the China Lions, who were populated by NZ provincial players who missed out on Super Rugby squads and a smattering of Chinese talent, would have no competition to partake in – wasting the developments made by the Bay of Plenty union.

New Zealand Rugby are set to meet next weekend to assess the relative merits of the various ventures proposed, including Kanaloa Hawaii, the Asia Pacific Dragons and the latest corroboration from Forrest and Bay of Plenty.

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