'The plan is one competition and we're working hard on that with our partners Rugby Australia as we speak'
New Zealand Rugby is “really confident” of adding Pacific teams to Super Rugby in time for the 2022 season despite concerns over their financial viability, a senior NZR official said on Thursday.
World Rugby said on Wednesday it will spend 1.2 million pounds ($1.64 million) annually over three years to help facilitate the entry of Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika into the competition, subject to NZR Board approval and key conditions being met.
“We’re really confident. We’re not there yet but we’ve been working really hard with both entities over a period of over six months now,” NZR head of professional rugby Chris Lendrum told reporters.
“This is two really serious attempts by two really serious teams and a very serious national union here in NZ to establish these two teams.
“So there is still work to be done, finances can’t be pulled together over night.
“But we remain really positive and can-do in terms of their establishment for next year.”
Fijian Drua, launched in 2017, compete in the lower tier Australian National Rugby Championship and won the title in 2018.
An invitational Moana Pasifika squad were beaten 28-21 by the Maori All Blacks in a one-off match last year.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to the global Super Rugby competition in 2020, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa have launched their own domestic versions.
New Zealand hope Australia’s Super Rugby teams will join their competition in 2022, though the sport’s governing bodies in each country were at loggerheads over the format last year.
Lendrum said Rugby Australia (RA) would need to be a part of the competition and behind the Pacific plan for it to work.
“Certainly the plan is one competition and we’re working hard on that with our partners Rugby Australia as we speak,” said Lendrum.
“The hope is that within the next few weeks we’ll be able to make confirmations.”
RA declined to comment on the future plans for Super Rugby, or whether they backed the inclusion of Pacific teams, when contacted by Reuters.
Lendrum said it was “potentially sustainable” for Fijian Drua to be based in Fiji but Moana Pasifika, which would be comprised of players from Tonga and Samoa, would likely operate out of New Zealand.
“The main condition is and has always been financial sustainability,” he said.
“At the end of the day it’s sport but also business. And these two teams need to be able to illustrate they are able to stand on their own two feet and deliver revenues that will enable them to field a competitive side that adds value to the competition.”
($1 = 0.7306 pounds) (Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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