Rugby Australia (RA) is set to announce an interim domestic men’s competition to replace this year’s Super Rugby tournament, with the Perth-based Western Force to be included.
- Rugby Australia hopes the competition will kick off in July at the earliest, although it may not be a long-term replacement for Super Rugby
- The Western Force are set to be included alongside the Waratahs, Reds, Brumbies and Rebels
- Japan’s Sunwolves may also be included in the competition, but they would have to be based in Australia
The Force were kicked out of Super Rugby at the end of the 2017 season, but they are set to play alongside Australia’s existing franchises, the New South Wales Waratahs, the Queensland Reds, the Brumbies and the Melbourne Rebels.
Japan’s Sunwolves, who are to be left out of Super Rugby beyond this year, may also be included in the competition and be based in Australia.
RA’s decision to launch a domestic tournament comes after Super Rugby was suspended in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The future of Super Rugby — which includes teams from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan and Argentina — is clouded, however RA’s competition may not be a long-term proposition for its domestic franchises.
RA hopes the competition will begin in July at the earliest.
An RA spokesperson said the organisation was still working through all the details of the competition and the competing teams.
It would mirror similar competitions in New Zealand and South Africa, although the format has not been finalised.
Training for the Australian teams will begin this week after they are given biosecurity briefings.
RA’s push for an interim domestic competition came less than a week after Rob Clarke was appointed as its chief executive on a short-term basis.
Clarke, an experienced rugby union administrator, stepped into the role following Raelene Castle’s resignation last month after serving less than three years as chief executive.
He returns to RA at a time when it is enduring one of the most turbulent periods of its history.
RA was facing financial difficulty prior to the coronavirus outbreak, having announced in March it had posted a provisional $9.4 million operating deficit for 2019.
It forecast it could lose up to $120 million in revenue if the professional game did not resume this year, while it was forced to stand down 75 per cent of its staff.
RA is also attempting to renegotiate its broadcast deal, however the uncertainty about the future of Super Rugby has not helped its cause on this front.