The previously-axed Western Force will feature in a revised Australian-only Super Rugby competition which Rugby Australia is aiming to stage from 3 July to 19 September in a round robin format, pending final discussions with broadcasters.
The proposed competition, which will be known as Vodafone Super Rugby AU, will feature five teams and was devised after the Super Rugby season was suspended in March due to government-imposed travel and border restrictions. The Australian teams include the Brumbies, NSW Waratahs, Melbourne Rebels, Queensland Reds and the resurrected Force.
With international border closures remaining in place across each of the competing SANZAAR nations, plans to resume the 15-team, three-conference Super Rugby format were abandoned for 2020.
Incoming Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan said the return of the Western Force in an Australian-based competition is “a great story” and they are “grateful for Andrew Forrest’s support”.
“Our Australian derby clashes are always up there with the most popular matches each season and it will be great to see those rivalries ignited again in a national competition. Wallabies spots will also be on the line as Dave Rennie and his coaching team run a keen eye over the competition ahead of the international season,” Mr McLennan said.
“The players are hard at it in preparation and we can’t wait to get the season restarted on 3 July.”
In addition to the Australian teams, Rugby Australia interim CEO Rob Clarke said they were in dialogue with Japanese side the Sunwolves around their potential involvement in the competition, “but we now know that we have at least five teams secured and will continue our discussions with Fox Sports and our commercial partners over the coming days”. However, today 1 June, Fox Sports reported that a “bitterly disappointed” Sunwolves side were ruled out of the Australian Super Rugby reboot for numerous reasons, including having to quarantine for 14 days on arrival in Australia and an inability to secure a permanent base for 12 weeks. The decision also marks the Sunwolves’ exit from the Super Rugby competition after five seasons.
Mr Clarke said the final elements of the Australian competition, including the season draw, will be released in due course. It remains to be seen how the competition will address interstate travel as Western Australia and Queensland maintain their hard border stance.