Fifth Australian Super team discussed - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Fifth Australian Super team discussed

By Jim Morton 05/03/2009 06:13:22 PM Comments (0)

Melbourne, Gold Coast and Western Sydney loom as the most serious contenders for a new Australian Super rugby franchise after the sport's bosses called for a 15-team competition to be introduced in 2011.

A seven-hour SANZAR board meeting in Dubai on Wednesday resolved the preferred structure of the expanded competition would include three five-team conferences - South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

Expressions of interest for a fifth Australian Super rugby team to play in an expanded 22 week competition, are expected to follow shortly.

The three Australian locations appear the most obvious candidates to battle it out for a new team, although South Africa and New Zealand may also make bids for their own sixth sides.

* In other SANZAR developments, New Zealander Cameron Good will work as project manager to refine the preferred structures for the Super Rugby and Tri-Nations to present to broadcast partners by June 30

* the Super 15 would start later, probably early March

* it would contain one full round plus an extra round of local derbies between teams within each conference

* finals would be extended to six teams, with the ARU keen to road-test a new play-off structure in 2010

* the chances of a Japan-based team have faded with 2015-2016 looking as the next stage of expansion

* an intent for Argentina to join the Tri-Nations from 2012

Australian Rugby Union boss John O'Neill, who attended the "constructive and robust" board meeting, believed the Gold Coast, Melbourne and West Sydney boasted the necessary prerequisites, while also mentioning Gosford and Newcastle.

O'Neill said a decision on the 15th franchise needed to be made well before the end of this year, and talked up the possibility of a "hybrid team" including Pacific Islanders, Australian expats and league converts.

Melbourne missed the boat when Perth was preferred for the move to the Super 14 four years ago but has the added advantage this time of boasting a new rectangular stadium which is due to open in mid-2010.

Australia won't have it all its own way with South Africa and New Zealand keen to throw more hats in the ring.

South African officials, who denied any truth in rumours they were looking to ditch Super rugby and link with Europe, desire a team - the Southern Kings - from the Eastern Cape to play in the Australian conference.

O'Neill reported the NZRU said some of their provinces may also nominate but believed it should be the domain of Australia.

"The thing I keep coming back to is that the fifth team will play in the Australian conference," he said.

"It really doesn't make sense for an Eastern Cape to fit into an Australian conference.

"It may come to look like a Melbourne Cup field ... but it might be one of two or maybe three horses that can win it."

While Australian rugby talent appears to be stretched at present with four sides, O'Neill believed a fifth team could work, and not at the expense of NSW, Force, Brumbies and Reds.

He said another Australian side could see the ARU revisit their stringent foreign player policy, opening the doors to Tongan, Samoan and Fijian players who would otherwise head to Japan or Europe.

"I think a hybrid team with Australians, Pacific Islanders and the odd rugby league player, and that could provide a very competitive team," he said.

"We would have to be careful to ensure the existing four franchises would not be diminished in any way."

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