ARU settle on Melbourne for Super15




Melbourne will be Australia’s candidate for the new club in an expanded Super 15 rugby competition.

The Australian Rugby Union announced Wednesday that it would back a bid from the Victoria state capital over rival tenders from other cities in the traditional rugby strongholds of Queensland and New South Wales states.

The provincial Super Rugby competition will be expanded by one club in 2011 to a Super 15, when the tournament is lengthened and divided into three, five-team conferences based in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

New Zealand and South Africa have five clubs already in the existing Super 14 and Australia has four – based in Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Western Australia.

SANZAR, the joint body which governs the provincial and international series involving the three countries, has stipulated the extra club would be added to the Australian conference but would not necessarily be based in Australia.

South Africa and New Zealand are also bidding for the 15th club, with a SANZAR decision expected by October.

“It was for this reason that the ARU board accepted a recommendation to put forward only one bid to the next stage of the selection process,” ARU chief executive John O’Neill said.

“The decision to be made by SANZAR before the end of the year is not where in Australia the team will be based – but in which country.

“Therefore, it will be in the ARU’s best interests to proceed with what we consider to be our best and most compelling option.”

The ARU has asked three parties which entered bids for a Melbourne franchise to join forces and improve the city’s chances of securing the 15th Super Rugby license.

“We are in a three-nation race for the license and we want the 15th team in Australia. So we need to focus our energy on what will be our most compelling bid,” he said.

Under the proposed Super 15 format in 2011, each club will play home-and-away against the other teams in its conference, and also play eight of the remaining 10 teams in the other two conferences for a total of 16 preliminary stage matches.

This will increase the tournament from 91 to 120 matches, an almost one-third increase. The Super 15 playoffs will be expanded from four clubs to six, and extended from two weeks to three.

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