Indo-Pacific league takes shape with ARU help
Sydney - Australian and Indo-Pacific rugby chiefs are
working to collaborate on a new league initiated by mining magnate Andrew
"Twiggy" Forrest that will allow Super Rugby stars to feature, it was
announced on Wednesday.
Plans for the competition were flagged by the billionaire
founder and chairperson of Fortescue Metals this month after Force lost an
appeal against their controversial axing from Super Rugby.
Forrest said the new league, due to start next year, would
initially feature six teams, with the Perth-based Force one of them.
The other five would come from either Singapore, Hong Kong,
Samoa, Fiji, Seoul, Tokyo, Shanghai, Tonga or Kuala Lumpur.
In a breakthrough, Forrest revealed he was in negotiations
with the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) to ensure players who compete in his
league will also be eligible to play Super Rugby and represent the Wallabies.
This would involve the Indo-Pacific Rugby Championship
(IPRC) selecting its schedule to avoid direct clashes with Super Rugby.
The plan is to allow ARU contracted players to sign up to
the Indo-Pacific league for four months each year, encouraging Australians
playing in Europe, or those considering leaving, to instead join the new
competition and still be eligible to play for Australia.
Currently, only overseas-based Australians who have played a
minimum 60 Tests can be selected for the Wallabies.
In return, the IPRC would work with the ARU to grow
grassroots rugby while attracting sponsorship and broadcaster interest from the
It would also help to develop player, coach and referee
skills in the region.
"We envision the future of rugby union as a most
popular global competition in the fastest-growing consumer market in the world,
where over 60 percent of the world's people live in the same time zone,"
"We are now consulting with sovereign governments,
international broadcasters, media organisations and other global businesses,
with great interest in the Indo-Pacific, as well as Australia's leading coaches
and players, both here and overseas."
The West Australian newspaper said the teams would likely be
made up of internationals, Pacific Islanders, expat Australian and New
Zealanders and some local players in an attempt to keep all sides on a level
The ARU confirmed it was in talks with Forrest.
"ARU is involved in collaborative discussions with
Andrew Forrest and his Minderoo team and we look forward to continuing these
discussions over the coming weeks," said chairperson Cameron Clyne.
"We do not wish to comment on the specifics of any
proposed new competitions while these discussions are at a preliminary stage.
"ARU remains committed to maintaining a strong rugby
presence in Western Australia and will explore all options in this
SANZAAR, the governing body of Super Rugby, decided to
reduce the competition to 15 teams from next year after the unwieldy four-conference
18-team model lost favour with fans and led to a slump in television viewers.
Two South African teams were also axed.