Sydney - The new Melbourne team will be allowed up to 10 overseas players in its inaugural roster for next year's Super Rugby season under new player concessions announced by the Australian Rugby Union on Monday.
The ARU board has eased its existing foreign player policy so the fifth Australian team can be competitive for the 2011 season, a spokesperson said.
Previously Australian provinces were allowed only two overseas players in their respective squads.
They allowed for one "marquee" signing who has already qualified for another nation, and a development player who could qualify for Australian selection under the International Rugby Board's three-year residency regulation.
The ARU said to ensure Melbourne had a competitive squad for its inaugural year in a revamped 15-team Super Rugby competition, and to provide a level of protection for the current Australian Super Rugby teams, its board had decided to relax its foreign player policy for the fledgling franchise.
"Melbourne will have the right to contract two overseas players as per the conditions of the existing foreign player policy covering all Australian teams in Super Rugby," the spokesperson said.
"However, the Melbourne foreign player concession will also allow the new Super Rugby team to sign a further eight foreign players."
The ARU said all eight players could be overseas internationals who would not be eligible to play for Australia along with overseas "development" players.
The spokesman said the new concession would be gradually rolled back so that by 2015 Melbourne would have the same number of overseas players as the other four Australian teams, Waratahs, Reds, Brumbies and Force.
"It is important to ensure Melbourne can recruit a team that is competitive from day one," ARU managing director John O'Neill said.
"The concessions we have put in place provide Melbourne with every opportunity for immediate success, while also ensuring there is ongoing sustainability moving forward."
Melbourne beat off the Southern Kings from South Africa in November to take their place in an expanded Super 15 competition in 2011 following an arbitration panel review.