Penney warns New Zealand against Super Rugby "isolation"

Beth Newman Profile
by AAP & Beth Newman

Waratahs coach Rob Penney has warned New Zealand against going into Super Rugby "isolation" in years to come.

Speculation around the 2021 Super Rugby competition continues to swirl with reports this week that New Zealand Rugby's looming Aratipu report has recommended walking away from SANZAAR and Super Rugby.

Australian rugby figures have long pushed for a trans-Tasman competition, with the hopes of fielding five Australian and five Kiwi teams in that tournament.

News emerged out of New Zealand on Wednesday that some key officials were leaning towards a more contracted version of that, with as few as two Australian teams in that model.

Asked whether he felt a more domestic-focused move would be detrimental for Australia and New Zealand, Penney was blunt.

"I guess isolation's probably not the ideal scenario for anybody but if New Zealand want to do that, at their own peril," he said.

"We'll have a great competition here in Australia and as we talked about, there's a great depth of youth coming through, it's a very exciting period of time for Australian rugby, I certainly really believe that and if New Zealand don't get positive around thee relationship they can have with Australia, that's their loss.

"They probably see themselves in a powerful bubble, which they have done for a number of years, and so be it.

"We'll create one here and then they'll come knocking I'm sure."

NZR chief executive Mark Robinson hit out at Australian media reports that his board were split over two possible preferred models - an open-border split of five NZ and five Australian franchises; or an eight-team competition featuring five from NZ, two from Australia and one from the Pacific.

Robinson said the board had yet to even see a copy of the independent Kiwi-driven "Aratipu Report" recommendations which will be unveiled publicly next week.

Robinson said he had spoken to Rugby AU chief executive Rob Clarke earlier on Thursday and received no steer on his preference for 2021 and beyond.

"There's nothing we're hearing about what they would and wouldn't be open to at this stage," Robinson said.

"I'm not aware of what Australia are particularly focused on in that area."

Robinson said suggestions his board were split was "absolute nonsense" along with suggestions the Sanzaar joint venture was on the verge of being dismantled.

He indicated SAZNAAR may not be the governing entity of the Super Rugby replacement, depending on what format it takes, but would continue to oversee the running of a Test tournament.

Robinson confirmed Sanzaar was investigating staging this year's Rugby Championship in Australia and/or New Zealand.

He said NZR had pitched to be a sole host of the tournament but would buy into whatever worked best in a COVID-19 environment.

Trans-Tasman talks remained "dynamic" on staging a Bledisloe Cup series, he said.

SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos told earlier in the week that reports of Super Rugby changing in 2021 "bemused him".

"I have actually been quite bemused by it all because it is more just coming out of certain sectors within New Zealand around not wanting to play in South Africa and wanting to do their own thing,'' he said.

"It just seems to be a bit of a chorus in this part of the world (Australasia)."