English clubs moot cross-hemisphere comp

Talks 'ongoing', says SANZAR

GEORGINA ROBINSON
Last updated 12:51 18/02/2013
Toby Flood
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PINNACLE OF EUROPE: Toby Flood in action for Leicester Tigers during the Heineken Cup clash against Ospreys.

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Australia remains open to a cross-hemisphere competition between Super Rugby teams and English Premiership sides despite the plan's many challenges, ARU boss Bill Pulver says.

Speculation about a new competition involving the top SANZAR Super teams and best English sides has heated up following England's unhappiness over the Heineken Cup format.

London's Telegraph newspaper reported on Sunday that representatives from England's Aviva Premiership competition had held discussions with Super Rugby clubs about the possibility of creating a new competition to replace the Premiership's involvement in the Heineken Cup.

The agreement that holds together the tournament, which features the top teams from England, France, Italy, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, is up for renewal at the end of the 2013-2014 season.

England appear to be using the threat of creating a splinter tournament to ensure their gripes are addressed.

Among the alternatives is a competition involving the Super Rugby sides, one based on an Anglo-French partnership, or an expanded domestic competition with Wales.

There is also thought to be some interest from Argentina, who now play in the Rugby Championship, in setting up satellite clubs based in Spain.

The biggest hurdle for the cross-hemisphere plan is timing. The southern season, from the Super Rugby pre-season to the Wallabies' traditional end-of-year tour, leaves little space on the calendar for a tournament that will likely involve travel, while the northern teams would face a similar dilemma.

SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters said discussions were ongoing between the bodies but had not reached a formal stage.

''It would be attractive to north and south from both a commercial and fans' perspective,'' Peters said.

But the cost and logistical hurdles in the way of a cross-hemisphere tournament are significant.

''There is no formal dialogue taking place, and while there has always been that aspiration to have something that decides who is the champion club in the world, it has always been frustrated by the number of weeks in the year and the availability of players,'' he said.

But ARU boss Pulver left the door open, saying he would support anything ''in the interests of the further development of the game''.

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''I had my first SANZAR meeting last week, and there's a strategic planning process in place which is looking at options for the future development at the Super Rugby level,'' he said.

''Obviously since Argentina joined the Rugby Championship there's some likely interest there, but there's a few different models they're developing.''

- Sydney Morning Herald

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