ARU won't walk away from 'successful' franchises

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The ARU is keeping its cards close to its chest when it comes to the future of its five franchises, ahead of a pivotal board meeting on Monday.

That ARU board meeting today is the last ahead of a March 9 SANZAAR meeting, where it is hoped the Super Rugby format from 2018 will be decided upon.

It is believed the Australian contingent will agree on a range of proposals to take into the meeting, with a final format needing to be agreed to by all SANZAAR representatives.

RUPA urged the ARU to guarantee the survival of the five franchises, in a strongly-worded release on Friday, but there are still many decisions to play out before the 2018 format is widely known.

ARU chief operating officer Rob Clarke put the kibosh on talk of a Melbourne Rebels-Brumbies merger on Monday, though.

“Even when I was down here 13 years ago, we were looking to explore the Melbourne market for the Brumbies but that was for commercial upside,” he said.

“The Brumbies have entrenched themselves here (in Canberra).

“They remain Australia's most successful provincial team, they represent a great rugby heartland in this part of Australia." - Rob Clarke

“I know that under Michael Thompson's leadership and the board's leadership there's a lot of effort going in to make sure that the Brumbies are financially sustainable and certainly their performance on the field under Stephen Larkham can't be questioned.

“If those two things come together, then that should secure a good future.”

Stephen Larkham's men topped the Australian conference in 2016. Photo: WalmsleyClarke was less definitive on the shape of Super Rugby moving forward.

“These are complex issues and we operate in a joint venture with three other countries,” he said.

“Each country has its own particular challenges and we're no different to them, we have our own challenges and we have to marry what is our priorities with the priorities of the joint venture and see if we can come up with a solution that works for everybody."

“Ultimately it's not going to be a perfect fit for everybody and  there'll be some sacrifices that will need to be made. Exactly what they are and how that plays out, won't be known right now but will become clear in the coming weeks.”

When asked whether he could guarantee the Brumbies’ survival, Clarke only said that any ‘successful’ franchises would have nothing to worry about.

“All I can say is you don't axe or walk away from a successful product,” - Rob Clarke

“So, it's our collective challenge in Australian rugby to make sure our products are successful and if the Brumbies keep doing that along with the other Super Rugby clubs and the Wallabies continue to be successful then we should have a healthy future.”