SYDNEY // Seven Australian groups have lodged their interest to establish the 15th Super rugby team when the competition is revamped in 2011. There were three proposals submitted from the southern state of Victoria - an Australian Rules stronghold - two from Queensland and one each from Western Sydney and New South Wales Country, the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) said yesterday. Queensland and New South Wales already have teams in the current Super 14 competition.
"From an Australian perspective, to receive interest from seven domestic parties is a significant vote of confidence in the game," the ARU Chief Executive John O'Neill said. "We look forward to discussing the future with interested parties over the coming weeks." The 15th team will be included in a new Australian conference from 2011. South Africa and New Zealand already have five teams in the competition, though can seek a possible sixth team, who would play in the Australian conference.
O'Neill said the ARU would assess each of the domestic "expressions of interest" and submit one or more of them to the governing body, SANZAR, for consideration in August. SANZAR will then evaluate all expressions of interest submitted by the South Africa, New Zealand and Australian unions before deciding how many should submit a full bid document. Bids will be due by end of September with a final decision expected in late October.
Meanwhile, New Zealand are to review their 14-team top flight rugby competition and relegate the four weakest sides to a newly formed second division in 2010. A number of provinces have struggled to meet costs in the championship since it was expanded in 2006 and have been hit hard by the global financial crisis, forcing the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) to investigate changing the competition.