Mining magnate backs Force to stay in Super Rugby
Perth - Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest pledged his support on Sunday to embattled team Western Force to remain in next year's Super Rugby competition.
The Australian Rugby Union are deciding if the Perth-based Force or the Melbourne Rebels will be dumped from the competition in a Super Rugby restructure from 18 to 15 teams in 2018.
Forrest gave a passionate on-field address to the Western Force players after they ended their Super Rugby season with a 40-11 win over the New South Wales Waratahs in Perth Saturday.
The billionaire told the players the state of Western Australia was behind them and the club would survive its predicament.
"You've gotta recognise that the people of Western Australia are so proud of you, what you achieved tonight is not an aberration," he said.
"Surviving is not the issue. You will survive and you will win. Your state is totally behind you."
The Fortescue Metals chairman issued a statement Sunday where he "pledged his full support for the Western Force rugby team" and said his love for the game was the only motivation.
"I stand completely with, and behind, Western Australia to keep this team thriving, not just surviving, but absolutely thriving in the national rugby scene," he added.
Forrest also "assured the Australian Rugby Union board that his ongoing support for rugby would be contingent upon it remaining a national, not an eastern states-only, sport".
He said he wanted the Force to know that "I, as a proud Western Australian, have their backs".
This week marks 100 days since the Australian Rugby Union announced that a resolution on which of the two franchises would be culled would come in "48 to 72 hours".
The process became more protracted as the ARU consented to giving the Force and Rebels more time and the franchises investigated legal options.
South African teams the Cheetahs and Southern Kings have already been dumped from next year's competition.