Crusaders haven't embarrassed ARU: CEO - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Crusaders haven't embarrassed ARU: CEO

By Glenn Cullen 31/01/2006 04:59:47 PM Comments (0)

Australian Rugby Union chief executive Gary Flowers doesn't believe the peak body has been embarrassed or one-upped by the New Zealand-based Crusaders who are attempting to get a foothold in the Melbourne market.

The Christchurch-based team played a trial match against the Western Force in front of more than 11,500 at Melbourne Park on Saturday and are pushing to have further ties in the Victorian capital after it missed out on a Super 14 franchise.

The ARU has paid little attention to rugby in Melbourne after Perth was awarded the Super 14 slot in December 2004 and the Crusaders have pounced, confirming they will base themselves in Victoria before matches in Australia this year.

The New Zealanders will also investigate marketing opportunities in the southern capital and eventually aim to play a competition game there.

Flowers attempted to put a positive spin on the Crusaders' moves to crack the AFL heartland, saying it wasn't at the expense of ARU initiatives.

"In some ways it could be seen as a positive - it's actually bringing top class rugby to Melbourne and Victoria," said Flowers.

"I don't think it is a sign of any weakness in what we are doing.

"I wouldn't see it as a criticism of Australian rugby."

Flowers said the Waratahs, Western Force and Queensland Reds were already servicing large markets with potentially the only room to link with Melbourne coming from the Canberra-based Brumbies.

He added that the New Zealand Rugby Union would be "very nervous" about the Crusaders making any attempt to use Melbourne as a home, and had scuppered attempts to play games there in the past.

Head of Victorian rugby Ron Steiner admitted that a Super 14 match in Melbourne would not happen in 2006 but insisted that the Crusaders were keen to be involved there "for the long term".

Steiner was loath to criticise the ARU but said the Saturday night trial had "been an eye opener in every sense".

Melbourne will host the second rugby international of the season, against England on June 17.

Meanwhile, the ARU and the four Australian Super 14 unions announced a multi-million dollar, three-year sponsorship deal with telecommunications company Vodafone.

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