“Out of adversity comes opportunity.”
In what could only be described as annus horribilis for rugby union in Australia, 2017 will be left to historians to rake over the coals of a year that no Australian Super Rugby franchise could defeat any New Zealand rival. And that is the benchmark of rugby union here, to beat those pesky Kiwis across the ditch. The Wallabies lost to Scotland in June and were under the pump against the Auzzurri of Italy a week later. Not to mention the drubbing by New Zealand in Sydney in the first Bledisloe clash with 50 minutes of scintillating rugby from the World Champions to go to an unassailable 56-6 lead. The debacle of the way the ARU drew out the axing of the Western Force franchise showed such disdain that rugby has all but been obliterated from the Australian sporting landscape in 2017.
But for an unlikely source in Western Australia, larrikin billionaire mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, fuel has been thrown on the smouldering remains of the code by the announcement of the Indo-Pacific Rugby Championships (IPRC). Drawing on rugby aficionados from Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Fiji a six-team competition will begin in August 2018. Ideally it will be fully sanctioned by the ARU to allow another avenue for Wallaby selection, but as Twiggy says, “They’re not quite running at the same speed as we do!”
Twiggy’s bold plan.
Leading up to the first Rugby World Cup in Asia, hosted by Japan in 2019, this competition could capitalise on the hype developing in the region. There would need to be marque players, the likes of former Reds flanker Adam Gill have been mentioned, to attract more attention and add to the interest in this competition. If successful, there could be a relegation system with Super Rugby franchises in the current Super 15 format.
It could be a case of putting the cart ahead of the horse, but if such a competition could come off there is the potential for it to make a mark on the sporting landscape. Being able to financially compete with cashed up European and Japanese clubs could see the IPRC making a real identity for itself and it would of course seek endorsement from World Rugby.
I, for one, am hoping such a visionary concept could come off. The promotion of rugby in the fastest growing economies of the world is the real key for an international product that has huge growth potential with the upcoming World Cup 2019 in Japan.
The farcical Super 18 Rugby Competition has reached an all time low with the two protagonists now decided for the Super 18 Final, the Lions and the Crusaders.
What doesn’t sit right at all here and the fact that the whole Super 18 Competition is totally flawed is that the Lions never had to play any of the New Zealand teams thereby giving them a huge and unfair advantage.
Could somebody please explain to me how the current format of the S18 Competition can be deemed as a level playing field when the Jaguares, Kings, Lions or Sharks didn’t have to play any of the N Z teams through 17 Rounds of the S18 season?and how a Team which has played in a far inferior Conference (just take a look at the final standings on the table at the completion of the S18 Season) should be allowed to have a Home Quarter Final, Semi Final and Final?
For the Crusaders to now have to travel 11,500 kilometres to Johannesburg to play the Super 18 Final at High Altitude because they finished on equal points with the Lions (65) after the Home and away Season, even though they played in a far Superior Conference, but had only 7 bonus points compared to the Lions who had 9 seems like a travesty of Justice.
It’s little wonder then that the Credibility and Integrity of the Super 18 Rugby Competition has been brought in to question for a while now.
As a proud and passionate All Blacks supporter I hope that the Crusaders can draw on all of their resolve, self belief , superb skills, athleticism and will to win to defeat the Lions, if they do it will be a truly remarkable and memorable achievement with the odds stacked heavily against them.
Until SANZAR changes the current format of the S18 Competition and has every team play each other at least once through the Home and away Season then the Integrity and merit of the Super 18 Winner will continue to be brought in to question.
Yesterday, Bill Pulver, CEO of the ARU, announced that initial discussions with the CEOs of the five Australian Super 15 franchises on SANZARS proposed format for Super 18, coming into effect in 2016, are positive. Greg Growden, from ESPN scrum.com, told me this morning it was “ridiculous”. On Foxtel’s The Rugby Club last night they discussed the concept and I understand Tim Horan’s wish for a South Pacific team to be included, but television rights demand that greater audiences in Asia will benefit from their inclusion. Obviously with the 2019 World Cup in Japan, including matches in Hong Kong & Singapore, a franchise based in Tokyo or Osaka is almost a fait accompli.
With the time zone of Japan only being one hour behind Eastern Standard Time, or an hour ahead of Western Australia, the television audiences in these areas is where the money will be generated for Murdoch & Co. Even if some of those “Asian” matches were played in Hong Kong or Singapore, they would align with the Perth time zone. After all, as Pulver says, the money is in the television rights and the positives he was hinting at was some Super Rugby matches will be shown on free to air channels.
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