Australia, NZealand to play trans-Tasman Super Rugby
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Sydney (AFP) –
Australia and New Zealand will play a trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition next year with five teams from each country, they announced Friday after settling a bitter row over how the sport would look post-pandemic.
The event will see 26 games over six weeks from May 14, kicking off after each country completes a domestic tournament in what was described as "a truly historic day for rugby in the southern hemisphere".
It comes after the two nations were at loggerheads over how many Australian teams would take part. New Zealand Rugby initially suggested two to four, but this angered Rugby Australia, which was adamant all five of its franchises must participate.
"It's been a testing time for rugby in both countries, but also a chance to reimagine the game in our part of the world for 2021," said NZR chief Mark Robinson.
"The result is an exciting and innovative new competition, which will benefit fans, players, broadcasters and Super clubs."
The decision to press ahead follows South Africa's move for its four Super Rugby teams -- the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers -- to seek entry into an expanded PRO14 tournament in Europe.
Those franchises were part of the southern hemisphere tournament until the coronavirus pandemic this year ended the competition in its five-nation, 15-team format.
With borders closed, Australia and New Zealand instead held domestic events, which proved successful and will continue next year before the trans-Tasman finale.
"This is a truly historic day for rugby in the southern hemisphere, with the first-ever Australian and New Zealand Super Rugby competition," said RA interim chief Rob Clarke.
"This will generate enormous excitement across both countries."
There have been suggestions that the Australia-New Zealand competition could be expanded to 12 teams in 2022 to include Pacific franchises, but this remains to be seen.
With South Africa looking to Europe and Japan's Sunwolves on the scrapheap, Argentina's Jaguares have been left out in the cold, with their future unclear.
Australia's domestic Super Rugby AU is due to kick-off on February 19 when Queensland Reds face the NSW Waratahs and Western Force take on defending champions ACT Brumbies before culminating in a grand final on May 8.
New Zealand's Super Rugby Aotearoa starts a week later when Otago Highlanders play defending champions Canterbury Crusaders ahead of its climax on May 8.
The trans-Tasman event is scheduled to begin a week later with the final on June 19 between the top two on the ladder.
© 2020 AFP