Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan is interested in the concept of a cross-border competition featuring Australian, Japanese and New Zealand teams but is adamant discussions have barely begun.
But in comments certain to raise eyebrows, McLennan has invited Japan to bring a team into Super Rugby AU – which could be a sign that Australia is leaning towards retaining some kind of domestic competition in 2022, in conjunction with a trans-Tasman tournament.
Australian sides are yet to win a match against Kiwi opposition this year.Credit:Getty
Ota was keen to talk up the prospect of a new competition, which would see the best Top League teams line up against Kiwi heavyweights such as the Crusaders.
“If there is such a competition we would love to participate in it,” Ota said. “But … lots of discussions will be needed. Once everything has been fixed we’ll make an announcement as soon as possible.”
Former Wallabies coach and Panasonic Wild Knights boss Robbie Deans said: “I think there would be an appetite for it, particularly with the way the season is structured.”
Australia and New Zealand are yet to confirm what the calendar in 2022 looks like.
Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan speaking at a 2027 Rugby World Cup bid function. Credit:Getty
A comprehensive trans-Tasman competition featuring at least 10 sides – five Australian and five Kiwi – is set to take place but for how long is the big question.
New Zealand has pushed hard for two others sides – the Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika – to join in a 12-team competition but that is not guaranteed, given it would need to be signed off by RA.
There are private concerns as to whether the teams will be competitive by 2022. There is no guarantee RA will sign off on their place in the 2022 competition.
New Zealand wants a fully fledged trans-Tasman tournament next year but Australia is contemplating keeping a competition of its own, possibly going for six or 12 weeks.
McLennan flagged the prospect earlier this month and clearly that is still a possibility.
“I’d be open to a Japanese team coming into our Super Rugby AU comp,” McLennan said. “We could take a sixth team.”
RA is acutely aware that having teams constantly lose to New Zealand opposition is hardly going to grow the game.
Australian sides have lost all 10 matches against the Kiwis in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, most by significant margins.
RA boss Andy Marinos said last month a decision on next year’s competition structure would be finalised by the end of June.
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