All Blacks legend Sir John Kirwan has seen the big picture when it comes to securing rugby’s future.
Kirwan’s vision includes a dramatically revamped New Zealand set-up with provincial unions laying the foundation. Australian sides would be invited to join a bumper provincial competition and Super Rugby would be replaced by a Champions Cup-style format to include sides from Japan and South Africa.
“We’ve got to get the tribalism back,” Kirwan told Fairfax.
“The game is changing pretty quickly. There’s a couple of things we need to get back to. We need to get back to some tribalism and some traditionalism, so get back to Auckland, North Harbour, Otago.
“Super Rugby has been fantastic but domestic competitions are important and need to be strong.”
Kirwan’s plan would see a return to provincial rugby’s prime, with All Blacks littered through and regularly trotting out for their provinces.
But Kirwan insists the commercial aspects hold their own next to the feel-good nostalgia the revamp would bring.
The international component currently occupied by Super Rugby and the money made with it still exists in Kirwan’s vision, with a slight remodeling to mirror European rugby’s Champions Cup.
“We need Australian football to be strong so I think they should become part of a 20-team, NRL-type situation,” Kirwan said.
“For example, we would have possibly 14 New Zealand sides and then six Australian sides – get back to their traditional sides – and I think we’ve seen a resurgence of support [in Australia] for them.
“And then the Japanese play their domestic competitions, the Africans play their domestic competition, and we could possible look at a couple of Island sides coming in and then every four to six weeks we break into a four-round Super Rugby where we all play each other.
“It would be Manly playing Auckland, playing the Cheetahs, playing Fiji.
“The other reason I like it is that commercially we have more things to sell to Sky or whoever. You can package up the New Zealand comp, the Japanese comp, the Currie Cup, the Heineken Cup and then the tests.”
Super Rugby has been at a crossroads of late, with waning interest across the Tasman and beyond.
SANZAAR has been in discussions about where to take the competition once the current broadcast deal ends in 2020.
Kirwan wants to restore the competition to its former glory and reignite the passion that was once displayed by fans in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.
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