Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan has suggested that one possible solution to the perceived inequality between New Zealand and Australian Super Rugby sides could be a competition-wide player draft.
RA and NZR have been locked in a fairly public battle over the make-up of a potential trans-Tasman competition to replace Super Rugby. While NZR favour two to four Australian sides being included, RA are adamant that all five of their Super Rugby AU sides – including the Western Force – will be a fixture in any mooted competition.
The relative strength of the Kiwi sides compared to their Australian counterparts would likely lead to a fairly lopsided draw but McLennan’s suggestion that a draft could be introduced would potentially help to even out any inequalities.
The proposed draft wouldn’t necessarily be restricted to just a trans-Tasman competition, however, with McLennan suggesting that even if Australia are forced to repeat Super Rugby AU next year, then players from outside of the country could join the five Australian sides to bolster their talent.
“It would help solve team depth issues, the concerns [New Zealand] have, and I think a draft would be extremely promotable and exciting for the fans,” McLennan told the Sydney Morning Herald. “It would also create more content for the game.
After the passing of the 2018 NFL Draft, Alex McLeod explores how the concept would work in Super Rugby. https://t.co/nIKTtU9ndN
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“The draft is not a new concept, but if New Zealand are worried about team depth issues then why don’t we share some of the players around and have Kiwis playing for some of our sides.”
Already, the Western Force has called upon a number of foreign talents to help the formerly exiled squad compete with their Australian rivals.
All Blacks Richard Kahui and Jeremy Thrush will start in the Force’s Friday night clash with the Waratahs while Henry Stowers is a Samoan representative and bench lock Johan Bardoul spent two seasons with the Chiefs.
Historically, the Rebels have also called upon international representatives from outside Australia like Danny Cipriani, Greg Sommerville, Adam Thomson and Gareth Delve.
McLennan’s proposal, which RA will shortly take to NZR, could lead to more diversity in teams across the Tasman and facilitate the creation of rugby’s equivalent of cricket’s Big Bash.
“If we’re a destination and it’s the premier professional competition in the world then it’s going to bring players out for nine to 12 weeks and then let them go,” he said.
“This is a moment in time where we can do something completely different and it would work, and we should not waste this opportunity. Obviously, the Kiwis have to buy into it and it’s not invented by them, so they might be reticent.”
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