Forrest puts ball in ARU court over IPRC

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Andrew Forrest has put the ball in the ARU’s court when it comes to his new competition, after unveiling more key details on Friday.

Forrest, who met with the ARU board earlier this week, said the governing body was set to provide a preferred window, information on player eligibility and approve the Indo Pacific Rugby Championship in principle by November 2. 

The WA mining magnate said there were six teams set to be involved and presented two possible windows for the tournament - July-October 2018 or March-June 2019.

Both would compete directly with either NRC or Super Rugby, though Forrest is confident of attracting talent.

ARU chairman Cameron Clyne said how many of the players came from Australia or overseas would be pivotal in whether the timeframe was able to be realised.

"Our position has been, and we've been upfront since day one is, we want this to be beneficial to Australian rugby, it can't dilute or diminish club rugby, NRC, Super Rugby and the Wallabies because they are established and critical competitions on our pathway," he said.

"If it adds to that that's great and that's always been our criteria. We're open-minded and continuing to engage. But it's early days.

"It depends on the structure of the competition and it depends where the team's are going to be based and where those players are going to be sourced from.

"It may be something, it could impact that but if there's only a fairly limited number of players being sought out of Australia and the other players are coming from other markets maybe it won't be.

"We don't know those details as yet but we're open-minded but clearly we want to make sure that whatever proposal's coming in benefits Australian rugby and it can't diminish any of those other tiers."

Barbarians vice-captain Matt Hodgson is heavily involved in the establishment of the new competition, passionate about giving WA a continued rugby presence.

Though it wasn’t easy for Hodgson and Forrest to break bread with the ARU after the season that has unfolded, the former Force skipper said it was

“It's hard because of how we got dealt with at the end of the year but the end goal is to be playing in WA and that's what my eyes are on,” he said.

“If that means talking to the ARU and talking to World Rugby to get it sanctioned, that's something we are willing to do to get it to fit into the rugby schedule.

“We don't want this competition to just be up and running for one year,” he said.

“We want a long, strong competition throughout Asia and to expand it to. It's hard initially but the end goal will be worth it.”

Hodgson dismissed the suggestion that the IPRC could be an extension of the current NRC, involving Asian countries, maintaining they believed it would

“We see it at the same level as Super Rugby, the same standard,” he said.

“If it runs at the backend of the year it shows a good pathway - Club rugby, NRC, IPRC and Wallabies.

“It shows young kids they can play for the Wallabies and live in Perth, which is quite exciting.

“It increases our contracted player base.”

Hodgson is the IPRC’s player relations manager and said he had been flooded with player interest.

“I can only sign so many players and I have had about 250-300 approach me either through their managers or directly,” he said.

“I can talk to them about it from a player perspective and it's good to talk directly to get their thoughts on it so we can mould a competition that suits players as well as fans.

“That's something that is unheard of.

“I was lucky to go to the Force in ‘06 (when it was established) and build a club up so to start a competition is something that's really exciting and to get it right from the start.

“To have someone like Andrew backing it and putting his time and effort into it is pretty exciting.

“We have got a one year, two year, five year and 10 year plan and that's pretty exciting.”

Hodgson and the Barbarians will face the Wallabies on Saturday, kicking off at 3pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and Network Ten.