Force or Rebels face Super Rugby axe

Mon, 10 Apr 2017 06:55
Large force v rebels 800

REACTION: Threatened franchises Western Force and Melbourne Rebels will know within days who will be axed from the troubled Super Rugby competition, the Australian Rugby Union said Monday amid a backlash.

Governing body SANZAAR announced Sunday that two South African teams and one from Australia would be culled from the revamped 2018 Southern Hemisphere tournament amid financial losses and widespread fan discontent.

ARU Chairman Cameron Clyne said the Force and Rebels will soon learn which of them survives after consultations with both, adding that he supported SANZAAR's decision to cut a team.

The decision to axe either one means the Brumbies, Waratahs and Reds are safe and will be in the 2018 competition.

"We don't anticipate this final consultation period being a drawn-out process and expect to be able to deliver an outcome in the very near future," Clyne told a media conference.

"It is important for me to clarify that the decision to remove a Super Rugby team from Australia was a decision made by the ARU, not by SANZAAR.

"This outcome, however, was only made possible by a consensus vote by the four SANZAAR partners and has been a complex process involving the many stakeholders in the competition across the globe."

The Rugby Union Players' Association (RUPA) blasted the move, accusing the ARU of protecting Argentina's Jaguares and Japan's Sunwolves at the cost of one of their own.

"Having signed Australian rugby up to a competition which reduced local content, diluted tribalism and disrespected fans with its lack of integrity, ARU have now agreed to a new model which has protected the expansion teams in Argentina and Japan at the cost of one of our own," RUPA Chief Executive Ross Xenos said in a statement.

"Despite receiving Aus$30 million [$22.5 million] of additional annual broadcast revenue from 2016, the financial challenges of Australian rugby will likely be used to justify the short-sighted and ill-conceived decision which will limit the growth of rugby in Australia for generations to come."

Clyne insisted the move was in the best interests of Australian rugby with the franchises bleeding money.

"Super Rugby has placed an increasingly heavy burden on the ARU business in recent years and the acceleration of revenue declines in our Super Rugby businesses has placed the game under extreme financial pressure," he said.

"The additional funding provided by the ARU to offset Super Rugby losses has severely limited our capacity to invest further in our grassroots and high performance areas such as player and coach development."

Clyne said in addition to falling revenue, the changing global rugby market place had posed challenges for the Southern Hemisphere competition.

"Since the ARU expanded to five Super Rugby teams in 2010, the economy we operate in globally has changed dramatically," he said.

"With the incentives on offer in Europe, the player exodus has been significant in Australia and indeed across our SANZAAR partners. Based on recent performance trends, it is evident that we do not currently have the playing depth in Australia to service five teams in Super Rugby."

Agence France-Presse

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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 26 May 2017
Blues v Chiefs 07h45 Auckland
Reds v Force 09h45 Suncorp Stadium
Sat, 27 May 2017
Sunwolves v Cheetahs 05h15 Tokyo
Highlanders v Waratahs 07h35 Dunedin
Rebels v Crusaders 09h45 Melbourne
Bulls v Hurricanes 13h05 Loftus Versfeld
Wasps v Exeter Chiefs 13h30 London
Sharks v Stormers 15h15 Kings Park
Munster v Scarlets 17h15 Dublin
Jaguares v Brumbies 21h40 Buenos Aires
Sun, 28 May 2017
Lions v Kings 12h30 Ellis Park Stadium
SUPER RUGBY
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Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Brumbies 11 4 0 7 23
Waratahs 11 4 0 7 19
Reds 11 3 0 8 16
Force 11 3 0 8 13
Rebels 11 1 1 9 8
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Crusaders 12 12 0 0 54
Hurricanes 11 9 0 2 43
Chiefs 11 9 0 2 43
Highlanders 12 9 0 3 41
Blues 12 6 0 6 31
Pool SA1
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 11 7 0 4 30
Bulls 11 3 0 8 15
Cheetahs 12 2 0 10 11
Sunwolves 11 1 0 10 7
Pool SA2
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 12 11 0 1 51
Sharks 12 8 1 3 38
Jaguares 11 5 0 6 24
Kings 11 4 0 7 19