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Perth & Melbourne contenders for Super 14

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The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) on Wednesday said Perth and Melbourne were the only two cities invited to bid for the country’s fourth “Super 14” franchise.

ARU Managing Director Gary Flowers said that it whittled the contenders for the franchise down to two after expressions of interests from the Australian regional centres at Gosford, the Gold Coast, Townsville and Adelaide.

“The reality is that we now have two excellent options and can ultimately only choose one,” Flowers said.

“To put other locations to the expense and rigors of a submission process would create false expectations and frankly, we would be wasting their time.”

The expanded Super 14 is expected to have one extra team from South Africa and one from Australia start from 2006. South Africa nd New Zealand will the each have five teams and Australia will have four.

South Africa has never contested the finals of the Super 12. The Brumbies are the only Australian team to have won it.

Melbourne and Perth were always considered frontrunners for the new Australian franchise when the idea was floated in early September.

Melbourne, while not in Australian rugby union’s heartland, is the country’s second largest city with a population of more than three million and Perth has large expatriate populations of rugby-supporting South Africans and Britons.

The cities will submit their bids by November 19 and the ARU is expected to announce its decision in December.

The winner will join Australia’s existing Super 12 teams the NSW Waratahs, Queensland Reds and ACT Brumbies in an expanded 14-team southern hemisphere elite representative competition in the 2006 season.

The bids will contain detailed information on proposed revenue streams, sponsorship, player development ticketing, marketing and communications planning, as well as rugby operations planning including recruitment, staffing, training facilities and player welfare programs.

“Timing is critical,” Flowers said. “We need a CEO and coach appointed quickly to get the right structures in place and competitive playing roster recruited.”

SANZAR — which represents the South African, New Zealand and Australian rugby unions — put forward the Super 14 last month concept as part of a proposed new broadcasting rights deal with New Corp.

SANZAR’s model also includes a third round of Tri-Nation Test matches between the Springboks, Wallabies and All Blacks.

SANZAR’s 10-year deal with News Corp. expires next year and boss Rupert Murdoch warned last October a new agreement was unlikely to match the original sum of 550 million US dollars.

An ARU spokeswoman said SANZAR and New Corp. were still negotiating the contract.

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