As more details emerge, Twiggy’s Indo Pacific Rugby Championship should be supported

Spiro Zavos Columnist

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    Andrew Forrest has announced his plan for the much-hyped Indo-Pacific Rugby Championship, and things are looking promising.

    With only the initial plan announced, it’s hard to make a full analysis of what has been proposed with the lack of specific detail offered by Forrest.

    On face value alone, it seems a project that the ARU should try to help put in place and become involved in. There is going to be, according to Forrest, a six-team competition to be run at the completion of the Super Rugby season.

    Forrest has mentioned a number of different potential markets in the Indo-Pacific region – Australia, Singapore, Samoa, Fiji, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia.

    Some of these regions will overlap, meaning he can stick to the six-team format. For example, Singapore and Hong Kong could be part of a Chinese team which plays its home games out of all three countries. There is also scope for Sri Lanka and Malaysia to be involved in some way, while the potential for an Islander team between Fiji and Samoa also holds merit.

    After that, the details become a little murky. Until Forrest expands on the information about the IRPC, it’s difficult to say whether this sort of tournament will work or not.

    One of the key elements yet to be discussed by ‘Twiggy’ is exactly what he wants to happen to players produced by Rugby WA. Will they play in the National Rugby Championship for the Perth Spirit, or do they become part of the Western Australian side to take part in the IRPC?

    Richard Hardwick Perth Spirit NRC Rugby Union 2017

    (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

    Further to that, what is going to happen to those Wallabies players who have come out of the west? Under the offer they will remain eligible for the Wallabies, but will they be required to play in Forrest’s tournament as a priority? Or will they be allowed to play for the Wallabies in the second half of the year?

    These are questions which will be answered down the track, but there is plenty of promise in the initial plan announced by Forrest.

    On the face of it, the tournament has some merit. Asia is the next great market for the sport of rugby union. Japan is hosting the 2019 Rugby World Cup and also has a team in Super Rugby.

    China is also spending plenty on their rugby program and expanding exponentially, with plans to have more than ten million players in the next decade.

    Sri Lanka is another country which has a rich history in rugby, having played the sport for decades, while it remains a boom sport in the Pacific islands, where they want as many tournaments as possible. Put simply, Asia is a large development market for rugby.

    So, in the test of opening these new markets to rugby, Forrest’s competition ticks all the boxes.

    Should it get off the ground, the IRPC is only going to help Australian rugby by giving it a big presence in what’s going to be a huge market for rugby in the next couple of decades.

    Because of that, the ARU would do well to support Forrest’s plan, but at the same time they must ensure the integrity of the game across Australia is maintained.

    The proposal also appears to satisfy the frustrations of rugby fans in Western Australia who believe they haven’t got a fair go from the ARU. There will no doubt be plenty of support for the IPRC out west.

    Based on the details we have at this early stage, the rest of the Australian rugby community should support Forrest’s offer too.

    Spiro Zavos
    Spiro Zavos

    Spiro Zavos, a founding writer on The Roar, was long time editorial writer on the Sydney Morning Herald, where he started a rugby column that has run for nearly 30 years. Spiro has written 12 books: fiction, biography, politics and histories of Australian, New Zealand, British and South African rugby. He is regarded as one of the foremost writers on rugby throughout the world.

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