“We do have it in our schedule and would like to try and bring a short-form national club championship at the end of premier (club) rugby next year. So that would be part of our offering to a broadcast partner.
“We do intend to work more closely with that level of the game to try to give it more exposure and close the gap between any potential Super Rugby competition and club rugby.”
It will come as encouraging news that club rugby is still a priority for RA in the post-COVID-19 world. Clarke’s predecessor, Raelene Castle, negotiated with the Sydney and Brisbane clubs to bring their broadcast rights back under the RA umbrella, paying millions to secure the Shute Shield rights from the Fordham Company, with a view to spotlighting club rugby in the code’s landscape.
I’m hopeful … we can move forward with a more equitable partnership-based approach on a potential trans-Tasman competition.
Rugby Australia chief executive Rob Clarke
It also comes as negotiations over the future of Super Rugby enter a sensitive period between New Zealand and Australia.
Clarke reiterated chairman Hamish McLennan’s position that RA would not participate in New Zealand Rugby’s expression of interest process.
“You’ve seen the position we have taken with our Kiwi colleagues and I’m hopeful that there will be further discussion with them this week to see if we can move forward with a more equitable partnership-based approach on a potential trans-Tasman competition,” he said.
“That being said, we are also exploring alternatives on a domestic front alone, possibly with the inclusion of the Sunwolves, by way of example, and we are moving forward on that basis. And any discussions with potential broadcasters for 2021 are incorporating both of those competition models.”
A TV NZ report on Sunday night said NZR had tabled three different competition models to replace Super Rugby next year, including the preferred eight-team model (featuring two Australian teams) and two 10-team models of differing lengths.
The first 10-team iteration would see each team play four teams twice and five teams once, resulting in 68 games including two semi-finals and a final. The second version would see each team play five teams twice and four teams once, resulting in 72 games.
RA wants to agree a 10-team competition – featuring the five Super Rugby AU teams – with a view to expanding to a 12-team tournament in 2022 and beyond.
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Georgina Robinson is the chief rugby reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.