Aussies dealing with axing aftermath
CLEANING UP: The Australia Rugby Union has undergone a huge transformation after the Super Rugby axing of the Western Force.
The Force's axing has been accompanied with mammoth problems.
First, there was the threat of Western Force players heading over overseas. Which was followed by the Indo Pacific Rugby Championship - a brainchild of mining magnate Andre Forrest - also posed a risk to the magnitude of Super Rugby down under.
The billionaire Forrest 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 agreed.
However, to cope with all these setbacks and to set most players’ minds at ease, Rugby Australia has concocted a transition plan.
Rugby Australia plan is to transform the required total salary cap and player number increases for the 2018 Super Rugby season to provide greater opportunity for former Western Force players to remain in Australian Rugby.
There are the possibility that upwards of 10 players would be brought over to play for the Rebels under former Force coach Dave Wessels.
Former Force players Dane and Ross Haylett-Petty, Jermaine Ainsley, Tetera Faulkner and Ben Daley have already signed with the Rebels and it's believed locks Adam Coleman and Matt Philip are also set to make the switch to Melbourne.
The current player contracting rules provide that Australian Super Rugby teams are subject to a $5 million salary cap across their 30-man core playing squad rosters excluding top-up funding for Wallabies players.
Rugby Australia General Manager High Performance, Ben Whitaker said: "Collectively across Rugby Australia, RUPA and the four Super Rugby teams we are developing a transition plan for 2018 to assist us to keep our best talent in Australian Rugby.
"Unfortunately, there isn’t a perfect solution that provides a completely equitable outcome for every team in terms of talent access, but we believe this short-term measure will enable us to keep a number of talented players in Australian Rugby who might not otherwise have stayed in the country, plus ensure financial viability of the Super Rugby system," Whitaker said.
As part of the transition from five to four Super Rugby teams, Rugby Australia is also monitoring player movements to consider the composition of Super Rugby playing squads for 2018.
"Currently our Super Rugby teams can carry core playing squads of 30 players and it is likely that we’ll need to review that number as the teams finalise their squads for 2018," said Whitaker.
"We are not expecting any team to have a significant increase in squad size or player spend, but we’ll continue to monitor the situation closely with each team before making a final assessment on squad sizes for next season. At this stage, several players are still to decide on their destination for 2018.
"Ultimately, what we hope to achieve is to retain our best players in Australia, support the transition of former Western Force players, and give each team the opportunity to develop their squads and achieve winning outcomes next season. We are confident that the transition plan will enable us to seamlessly return to an agreed set of contracting conditions for 2019 and beyond,"
A number of high-profile Western Force players are still yet to confirm their plans for 2018, with Tatafu Polota-Nau the most recent to commit to a new club, moving to Premiership side Leicester.
Rugby AU and RUPA are in the early stages of negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement, which will determine how squads will look in 2019 and beyond.