Waratahs head coach Rob Penney is calling for Rugby Australia to pursue a trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition with the New Zealand clubs from next year onwards.

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The former Canterbury boss, who won four consecutive domestic titles between 2008 and 2011, endured a tough start to his reign in charge of the Waratahs earlier this year.

The New South Wales club made their worst start in franchise history when they kicked-off their 2020 Super Rugby campaign, losing their opening three fixtures to sit in second-last place with just one win from six outings at the time of the competition’s coronavirus-enforced suspension in March.

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In conversation with Bryan Habana

Three of those defeats were at the hands of New Zealand opposition, but Penney still wants his side, and the four other teams competing in the Australian domestic league that kicks off next month, to join forces with the five Kiwi franchises in a cross-border competition next year.

“I would love it to be a trans-Tasman competition,” he told The Sunday Telegraph.

“New Zealand Super Rugby has been the benchmark, and that’s not a derogatory comment on anything that’s happened anywhere else, but they’re consistently at the top.

“There will be testing times of course but for our boys to consistently play against them, that’s only going to be good for their development.”

Despite the Waratahs’ rocky start to the year, Penney remains committed to guiding his youthful side through the Australian Super Rugby competition and beyond.

An exodus of seasoned veterans from Sydney in recent years – including the likes of Bernard Foley, Israel Folau, Nick Phipps, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Will Skelton – has left Penney with a rebuild project on his hands.

At the crux of the squad includes former Australia U20 stars first-five Will Harrison and wing Mark Nawaqanitawase, both of whom impressed in the early rounds of Super Rugby.

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Others, such as teenage prop Angus Bell and former Western Force flanker Carlo Tizzano, have shown great potential, which has led Penney to stick to his guns for the coming years.

“I’m keen to see this project through because I believe in these boys,” Penney said.

“It’s still a young crop but there’s a lot of talent there that can have a long-term impact on Australian and Waratahs rugby.”

The Australian Super Rugby competition has been earmarked to kick-off on July 4, while New Zealand’s Super Rugby Aotearoa starts this week when the Highlanders host the Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

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