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Super 14 heading towards Melbourne

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Australian Rugby Union chief executive John O’Neill yesterday spoke of the possibility of Super Rugby being played in Melbourne as early as 2010.


The possibility was raised after O’Neill revealed that SANZAR, the Super 14 & TriNations governing body, had brought forward broadcast deal negotiations by 12 months.


The current deal expires on the 31st of May 2010.


O’Neill said negotiations would begin at the end of 2008, or early 2009 – rather than in 2010 – with a radical shake-up of the current format to follow.


O’Neill said SANZAR had agreed in principle to a new 22 to 26 week competition, with franchises in Melbourne, and possibly Japan to be included as early as 2010.


“Broadcast negotiations start towards the end of this year,” O’Neill told the Herald Sun.


“Expanding Super Rugby, from a 15-week competition, to a 22-26 week competition has been agreed to in principle. So that opens up some real opportunities for Melbourne.


“Melbourne features very definitively in our expansion plans.


“Now, we’re into a full-blown strategic planning exercise with New Zealand and South Africa, with a view of going to the broadcasters towards the end of this year, early next year, with a whole new format of Super Rugby and for Tri-Nations.


“That’s where Melbourne has an opportunity.


“The important thing is to have the community game really taking off.


“It’s that old New Zealand saying of ‘the bigger the base, the taller the pyramid’. The growth in numbers down here is important.”


A partnership between the Victorian Rugby Union and the ACT Brumbies could also yield benefits.


Brumbies coach Laurie Fisher was in Melbourne on Wednesday night to take a host of local coaches through a coaching skills night.


Several Melbourne-raised players are currently playing for the Brumbies.


VRU president Gary Gray said Melbourne was ready for a franchise.


The VRU lost to WA Rugby when the ARU last awarded a license back in 2005.


“The fans want it, the rugby community in Victoria wants it, the VRU’s ready, the Victorian Government’s never been more ready with a new stadium – bring it on,” Gray said.


“There’s no reason not to. Everything’s in place, so, let’s go.”

 

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