Rugby Australia has issued a statement in the wake of the announcement by New Zealand Rugby that it will effectively sever ties with SANZAAR and Super Rugby in pursuit of a new franchise tournament next year.

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In a statement released by NZR on Friday, chief executive Mark Robinson revealed that union was “committed to establishing a new professional team competition in 2021” on the back of the success of Super Rugby Aotearoa.

Robinson said that franchises from Australia, currently competing in Super Rugby AU, will be invited to tender to be part of the competition, while the prospect of a Pacific Island side being inducted into the league is also firmly on the table.

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Mark Hammett speaks to media

The Hawaiian-based franchise that is co-owned by ex-All Blacks Jerome Kaino, Joe Rokocoko, John Afoa, Ben Atiga, Anthony Tuitavake and Benson Stanley is believed to be the Pasifika team in the running to join the competition.

“There is a huge desire to have a Pasifika team involved which we think will be massive for the competition, popular with fans and is a priority for us,” Robinson said.

“As we know, our Pacific nations and Pasifika players in New Zealand have added so much to the rich history of rugby in Oceania and our game here in New Zealand. To have a team that would provide an additional pathway for Pasifika players to perform on the world stage would be hugely exciting.”

Furthermore, Robinson said that NZR would be working with RA to seek expressions of interest to join the new-look competition, which the NZR board hopes to consist of between eight-to-ten teams.

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NZR will begin to take expressions of interest from next week, and is aiming to have completed the process by the end of the month.

“We want teams that are competitive and that fans will want to watch go head to head, week in, week out.”

In response to the latest revelations, RA said in a press release that it “acknowledges New Zealand Rugby’s preferred position following their announcement today regarding a potential future provincial competition from 2021 and look forward to working constructively with New Zealand Rugby in the coming weeks.”

It added: “Rugby Australia will also continue its discussions with stakeholders in Australia and is in constant consultation with our valued SANZAAR Joint Venture partners.

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“Due to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rugby Australia recognises that there is a need to review the sustainability and practicality of the current Super Rugby competition and consider alternative models that are in the best interests of Australian Rugby from 2021 and beyond.”

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