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Expression of no interest: Australia to rebuff New Zealand competition invitation

English pundits weighed in after the release of the Aratipu review, accusing New Zealand of “arrogance” over their fait accompli approach to their Australian neighbours.

But the killer blow was landed by South African Rugby boss Jurie Roux, who reminded New Zealand of the binding nature of the SANZAAR agreement then said: “If anybody kicked anyone out of Super Rugby, it was New Zealand kicking themselves out.”

Rugby Australia chair Hamish McLennan has branded the trans-Tasman rugby dynamic as 'master-servant'.

Rugby Australia chair Hamish McLennan has branded the trans-Tasman rugby dynamic as ‘master-servant’.Credit:Wayne Taylor

The line would have stung, not least because of the ‘special relationship’ status bestowed by both unions on each other over the years. While Australian rugby fans like to think of the Bledisloe Cup rivalry as an enduring one, the reality is the All Blacks consider the Springboks their ‘equals’ on the rugby field. Roux’s public admonishment was a significant moment.

Now their hope to have a competition agreed and signed off by the end of August looks at long odds of happening, unless they can find another two teams to fill the vacant spots.

Incumbent Wallabies captain Michael Hooper weighed into the debate during an interview with Fox Sports that aired on Thursday night.

“I’ve been surprised by some of New Zealand’s comments,” Hooper said. “I think it’s a business at the end of the day. I think we need each other to some extent but I don’t know what that is. There are other options as well. I want to play rugby, I’m a rugby person. I’m not in the board room.”

My preferred competition is trans-Tasman and I received a call last night from London from powerful backers wanting to invest…

RA chairman Hamish McLennan

Australia, meanwhile, have been working hard on their plan B, an eight-team competition featuring all five Australian professional outfits, a Fijian Drua team, an Argentinian side and the second coming of the Sunwolves.

McLennan spoke to UAR president Agustin Pichot on Thursday about Australia becoming a second home for Jaguares players left high and dry after the cancellation of Super Rugby. He described Pichot’s reaction as “appreciative”.

RA’s position remains that a 10-team trans-Tasman competition is the ideal model in what is likely to be a COVID-19 restricted international landscape next year. Pasifika and Japanese sides could be added in 2022.

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“My preferred competition is trans-Tasman five and five and I even received a call last night from London from powerful backers wanting to invest in the competition,” McLennan said.

Silverlake, Providence and Tattarang – the private equity arm of Andrew Forrest’s empire – are believed to be the three major players keeping a close eye on proceedings.

RA would look to use a similar model to CVC’s investment in the UK’s Premiership Rugby, whereby the investment firm buys a stake in the commercial rights to a competition.

Meanwhile, the SANZAAR partners received good news from Europe overnight with World Rugby confirming a six-week Test window for the end of the year.

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The move will give national unions unrestricted access to their overseas-based Test stars between October 24 and December 5, allowing the Rugby Championship to go ahead in the so-called ‘hub’ formation in New Zealand.

“In the north, this window will accommodate the postponed men’s and women’s Six Nations matches at the end of October, a rest weekend on 7 November and a programme of international matches involving the Six Nations and invited teams hosted in Europe from 14 November through to 5 December,” the governing body said in a statement.

“With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to impact international travel and borders across southern hemisphere unions, on an exceptional basis The Rugby Championship 2020 will be hosted in full in a single country over a reduced six-week period between 7 November and 12 December. Special measures will be implemented to deal with any government-required quarantine period prior to the start of the competition.”

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