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First phase of Super 14 expansion likely for 2010

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A phased integration of Super rugby sides is likely to begin in 2010, with a fifth Australian team likely to be the first new entrant into the expanded competition.


Following that, it is possible that Sanzar bosses will look to invite a Pacific Islands side into the competition in 2012, with franchises in the US and Japan also likely to go live at the same time – making it a Super 18 competition.


There are strong hopes that an Argentinian and Canadian franchise can be welcomed but both might take longer to build reports the NZ Herald.


Australia have been looking to grow their Super Rugby presence from day one of the original Super 12, as they don’t have a provincial contest to provide their elite players with strong competition throughout the season.


When they were granted a licence to host a fourth side in 2006, both Perth and Melbourne were in the mix and it was a close decision to give the nod to Western Australia.


Australian Rugby Union chief executive John O’Neill has never hidden his desire to see Melbourne awarded a side and the green light for that is expected to be given in the next few months. Melbourne has a sport-loving public and has successfully hosted a number of Crusaders pre-season games in the past few years.


Rugby is growing in popularity in Victoria and the ARU would like an elite team based there to help try to convert fans away from the hugely successful Melbourne Storm NRL club and the many Australian Rules teams based in the city.


New Zealand Rugby Union boss Steve Tew says there is a strong desire among the Sanzar partners to see a Pacific Island involvement in Super rugby.


Plans are being drawn up to encourage Super rugby sides to contract a limited number of foreign players once the competition expands.


By doing that, Sanzar hope that significant numbers of Argentinians and Pacific Islanders will win places in the various teams so they can avoid player release issues and field international sides in an expanded Tri Nations.


“That might not be the only route for the Pacific Islands,” Tew told the Herald.


“I’m not in a position to say that it will happen in 2010 nor 2012 but having a Pacific Islands Super rugby team is possible. We are getting to the stage now where it is apparent that certain things are going to be easier to achieve. We will map out some possible ideas to show how change will be phased in.”


Building a Pacific Island Super rugby franchise is certainly going to be easier than building one in Argentina, due to the difficulties in reaching South America.


It is understood that if there is a Pacific Island team, it will most likely be based in Australia, with Gosford and Newcastle being considered.


It is possible that Argentina could be awarded a franchise in time, with Miami mooted as a possible base.


A US team, which now seems almost certain, is likely to be based on the West Coast, with Los Angeles the obvious city to host it.


Tew stressed that there is still an enormous amount of detail and planning to be worked through and that more specific ideas would be formed by January next year.


He also said the NZRU board would meet this week to discuss a proposal to extend the Super 14 playoffs next year to six teams.


The problem with the extension was that it would force an earlier start to the competition, something the NZRU was reluctant to do, given their desire to afford the leading players a longer off-season.

 

Super14.com

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