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NZRU open minded about Super Rugby expansion

NZ Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew

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Article Published: Tuesday 12 February 2013|

The New Zealand Rugby Union are open to a possible expansion of Super Rugby in the future but they do have "non-negotiable" conditions if it is to be expanded.

The 18th season of Super Rugby was launched in Auckland New Zealand on Tuesday and this season brings the first broken start to the competition.

In order to accomodate the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia the Australian teams will start this week and the New Zealand and South African teams start next week.

There are also Rounds in June and July that are affected by accomodating the Lions tour and NZ Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew says it is "a complication but it's a good complication".

New Zealand will host the next British and Irish Lions tour in 2017 so they are happy to sit back and watch how the tour affects Super Rugby but Tew also points out that Super Rugby may not look the same by then.

The current format and deal run until the end of the 2015 season and SANZAR are expected to re-negotiate another five year deal taking the tournament through to 2020.

SANZAR are looking into the viability of including the lucrative markets of Asia and the United States and there is a call for the Pacific Islands to be included.

New Rugby Championship nation Argentina have made no secret of their desire to be included in Super Rugby as well so there is almost no end of possibilities of what Super Rugby could look like.

Tew says the NZRU are willing to look at options for Super Rugby but they are firm on protecting their own market and the success and integrity of what hasbeen built since it was launched in 1996.

"We haven't drawn any lines through anything," Tew told Fairfax about possible expansion plans.

"The only thing we are adamant about is that we don't want any more rugby for our guys."

"We think our guys have got enough on their plates as it is. So we have to manage their workload."

"But we have an open mind ... nothing has been ruled out, but nothing is definite."

Tew made it clear that his organisation were clear about some things that "we think are non-negotiable".

"One is that the workload doesn't increase, two is that we don't do anything to devalue the commercial strength of our competitions and, thirdly, they have to remain sufficiently competitive. "

"We don't want a structure that compromises what we believe is the most competitive competition of its type in the world."

The NZRU also announced that the New Zealand Super Rugby teams would now be competing for a cup in the New Zealand conference.

"We think it's a good initiative," Tew said.

"It's not unusual in other conference competitions for the various champions to be recognised and rewarded.

"We think the New Zealand conference is the toughest in the competition. "

"There will be 40 games played here and 20 local derbies ... that's what makes this competition the toughest in the world."

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