Rugby Australia takes the pragmatic approach to Super expansion


Last year, there was an almighty scuffle when New Zealand Rugby sought to establish, and effectively run, a trans-Tasman/Pacific rugby competition. NZ Rugby said that in its preferred model one, two, or three Australian sides would have to go.

For Rugby Australia, newly re-wedded to the five team concept, this was almost an existential threat, as it would kill off the national growth of the game. In either the greatest bluff of the past decade, or a sign of genuine exasperation, the Herald understands Rugby Australia presented NZ Rugby with a six-team Australian competition – including the Fiji Drua – that it would start up rather than cut the Force or the Rebels.
NZ Rugby effectively blinked, and at that stage Rugby Australia was happy. It felt that it had secured its five teams and was looking forward to a 10-team trans-Tasman competition.

It was only after that stage did NZ Rugby come back to Rugby Australia with its plans to add the two Pasifika teams, which RA agreed to (with oversight conditions) as part of progress towards a Super Rugby commission that would eventually run the new competition.

The Herald understands the introduction of that commission remains firmly on RA’s agenda, even though the time frame is very tight for it to be set up in time for the 2022 season.

That series of events explains why, outwardly at least, NZ Rugby has been ‘excluding’ RA from the Pasifika process. It’s true that the Kiwis have been running the show, and perhaps RA would have liked more say into the criteria for the new teams, but the business plans of Moana Pasifika and Fiian Drua have been shared across the ditch.

The whole process also reflects the different political landscapes in both countries. In short, the Australian Super Rugby franchises probably carry more clout than their Kiwi counterparts. For example, the Kiwi Super Rugby sides don’t get a vote on the Silver Lake/NZ Rugby private equity proposal. Instead, the 26 provincial unions do. Also, Super Rugby players in New Zealand are NZ Rugby employees. That’s who pays them. Australian Super Rugby franchises probably wish they had more say, but they have more weight than across the ditch.

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And, if the Australian Super Rugby sides – running on a smell of an oily rag – were more concerned about their own sustainability than Pasifika expansion, it would be a logical – if unromantic – position, and most likely communicated to RA.

The path for Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua still has some hurdles despite this week’s announcement. Both franchises still need millions of dollars. There is still a lingering suspicion – although decreasing – that cold, hard rugby economics could derail the plan in the coming months. In that case, NZ Rugby would wear the blame for it, as it is currently carrying all the risk.

Thanks for checking this news release involving Australian sport named “Rugby Australia takes the pragmatic approach to Super expansion”. This post was posted by MyLocalPages Australia as part of our national news services.

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