NSW Waratahs coach Rob Penney has fired a warning shot at New Zealand Rugby (NZR) to weigh the importance of trans-Tasman relations when considering a new competition to replace Super Rugby.
Penney said Kiwi rugby bosses would pay a hefty price if they tried to play hard ball over the number of Australian teams in whatever format the competition took from 2021 onwards.
NZR chief executive Mark Robinson hit out at Australian media reports that his board was split over two possible preferred models – an open-border split of five New Zealand and five Australian franchises; or an eight-team competition featuring five from NZ, just two from Australia and one from the Pacific.
A Sydney Morning Herald report said Rugby Australia (RA) was poised to reject any proposal featuring three or less Australian teams and would set about creating its own competition, potentially inviting offshore players.
Robinson responded that he hadn’t received any steer on RA’s preference from counterpart Rob Clarke on Thursday in a meeting.
New Zealander Penney said it was obvious neither country would benefit long term from continuing with the internal Super Rugby competitions which had been launched this year in response to COVID-19.
“Isolation is probably not the ideal scenario for anyone but, if New Zealand want to do that – at their own peril,” he said.
“If New Zealand don’t get positive around the relationship they have with Australia, that is their loss.
“They probably see themselves in a powerful bubble, which they have done for a number of years – so be it. We’ll create one (competition) here and then they’ll come knocking, I’m sure.”
Robinson said the board had yet to even see a copy of the independent Kiwi-driven “Aratipu Report” recommendations which would be made public next week.
“There’s nothing we’re hearing about what they (Australia) would and wouldn’t be open to at this stage,” he said.
“I’m not aware of what Australia are particularly focused on in that area.”
Robinson said suggestions his board was split was “absolute nonsense” and played down growing noise that the SANZAAR joint venture was on the verge of being dismantled.
He indicated SANZAAR might not be the governing entity of the Super Rugby replacement, depending on what format it took, but it 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 and NZR had pitched to be sole host of the tournament.
Talks remained “dynamic” on staging a Bledisloe Cup series, he said.
However, the touted prospect of an All Blacks-Kangaroos hybrid match in December was fading as a prospect, primarily because NZR had received no recent updates from the NRL.
“They might have got cold feet – we’re not sure,” Robinson said.
“It’s quiet at present and that’sokay with us. We’ve got lots of things to work on.”