Indo-Pacific league to kick off minus Aussie stars
UPDATE: Mining magnate Andrew Forrest's ambitious Indo Pacific Rugby Championship will clash with Super Rugby when it kicks off in 2019, meaning it is likely to be missing Australia's top stars.
Forrest had planned for the IPRC to run next year after the Super Rugby season from August to October, but it will now start in March 2019.
IPRC and Rugby Australia on Sunday agreed on a number of principles for the six-team competition that will include a Western Force side. The other five teams will be announced later this month.
Forrest launched the tournament as a direct result of the Force being axed from next year's restructured Super Rugby competition.
"This is a transformative day for the players and the fans of rugby in the Indo Pacific region," Forrest said in a statement on Sunday.
"I am so proud to have reached this position where we have aligned with Rugby Australia on some core principles and a path forward."
However, Rugby Australia said it will only support the new competition if it doesn't affect the integrity of Super Rugby. As part of that protocol, Rugby Australia's Wallabies eligibility policy remains in place.
That means Australia's best Super Rugby players are unlikely to play in the IPRC - which is launching in a World Cup year - if they want to be considered for the national side.
IPRC has agreed to work with Rugby Australia to repatriate players who have moved overseas to join the new Western Force side.
Forrest has been talking with interests in China, Japan, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Hong Kong and South Korea about forming the other five teams for the inaugural season.
The six teams will be announced for World Rugby to sanction at a board meeting on November 14.
"World Rugby is supportive of the IPRC's objective to further help grow the game of rugby throughout the Indo Pacific region," World Rugby Chief Executive Brett Gosper said in a statement.
"This massive region of the world is a key priority of World Rugby's mission to grow the game globally."