NZR board split over Super Rugby replacement

Cullen Grace of the Crusaders charges forward during the round four Super Rugby match between the...
Cullen Grace of the Crusaders charges forward during the round four Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and Highlanders. Photo: Getty Images
The New Zealand Rugby board is split over the replacement for Super Rugby according to the latest revelations surrounding the game's post-virus upheaval.

Details of the NZ Rugby review were leaked this week, leading to strengthening predictions that Super Rugby is set for the scrap heap.

Australia has long provided a treasure trove of rugby leaks, and the Sydney Morning Herald has today claimed that NZR is split over a new competition structure.

There is even a faction within the NZR board which favours a transtasman competition with movement of players between the countries.

Some Australian officials are reportedly "alarmed" at the very real prospect of being strong-armed out of a vibrant transtasman competition.

The All Blacks have totally dominated the Bledisloe Cup for many years and Australia's old Super Rugby prowess has collapsed as New Zealand sides -particularly the Crusaders - increasingly dominated. This has undoubtedly made a transtasman competition involving too many Aussie sides less appealing to the Kiwis.

The report also says that Covid-19 still hovers over the future structure – temporary competitions may need to be played as virus cases spike in places such as Melbourne.

Central to the latest leak is the understandable claim that New Zealand Rugby doubts Australia can field more than two strong teams, meaning a transtasman competition would have to be dominated - numbers wise - by New Zealand sides.

This in turn could lead Australia to go it alone, leaving New Zealand to run a competition involving perhaps a Pacific Island team.

"Australian officials were alarmed to learn through other channels that at least half the NZR board favoured an eight-team competition, featuring the five existing Kiwis [Super Rugby] sides, a Pacific Islands team and just two Australian franchises," the SMH said.

"Rugby Australia would not countenance a three-team proposal floated earlier this year so would reject out of hand a format with room for even fewer Australian teams.

"The other half of the nine-person NZR board favoured a 10-team trans-Tasman model with a degree of open borders policy on player movement, sources told the SMH."

If the eight team New Zealand format was adopted, Australia would be forced to go it alone, creating its own widespread domestic competition and allowing South Africa and Argentinian players to join the teams.

This is being portrayed as rugby's version of cricket's Big Bash. Japanese players might also be involved.

"Rugby Australia is understood to be comfortable with an amped-up domestic option," the SMH claimed, contradicting the "alarm" over New Zealand's stance.

Claimed details of NZR's 'Aratipu' review were leaked via Newshub this week and suggested SANZAAR would be pretty much disbanded, leaving it to run the southern hemisphere test programme only.

If this eventuated, new alliances could be formed, and a finals series introduced for domestic champions.

Australian rugby is not in good shape, but it will not want to contract domestically.

In the background, there is an improved relationship between Rugby Australia and the breakaway Perth-based competition backed by mining billionaire Andrew Forrest. But this has also put more pressure on the future of the existing Australian Super Rugby teams finding places in any transtasman competition.

The SMH claimed communication between New Zealand and Australian rugby had "dropped off" with a planned conference call involving all the Super Rugby franchise bosses postponed.

This, however, may simply have occurred while the Aratipu report was being finalised.

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