Even Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan recently conceded

The CEO also rejected claims from Australia that the NZ Rugby board was split over the report.There’s absolutely no division on our board whatsoever, it’s absolute Free Live Rugby Streaming nonsense to suggest so,” Robinson said.“The report doesn’t actually land with the board until some time next week. It’s in consultation at the moment with different stakeholders.

“It’s important to note that nothing has been decided. We’ve been working with various stakeholders since the end of last week getting feedback on where the report is starting to move to.

“There’s a whole range of options being considered.”

Robinson also shot down speculation that Sanzaar would be “dismantled” in the event of a trans-Tasman competition.

“From our point of view Sanzaar remains a critical strategic partner, and we’re committed to the joint venture partnership,” he said.

“Like everyone, Covid has had a massive impact on rugby and there are ongoing discussions with Sanzaar about what that might look like in the future.

“But we’re committed to Sanzaar and as recently as Tuesday we were reconfirming our commitment to that partnership.”

New Zealand would risk pushing Australia away from a shared Super Rugby future “at their own peril”, NSW’s Kiwi coach Rob Penney has warned.

Penney, who coached Canterbury to four provincial titles between 2006 and 2011, warned New Zealand Rugby against “isolation” as the country plots its future beyond the end of this year.
Isolation is probably not the ideal scenario for anyone but if New Zealand want to do that – at their own peril,” he said.

“We’ll have a great competition here in Australia. As we’ve talked about, there is a great depth of youth coming through, it’s a very exciting period of time for Australian rugby. I certainly really believe that.”

Australian rugby officials were dismayed to learn on Wednesday that their Kiwi counterparts considered just two Australian teams the right amount in an eight-team replacement for Super Rugby when the current broadcast deal runs out on December 31.

Australia had been hoping to take four or five teams into a trans-Tasman competition, with a plan to bring in Japanese sides and open up the competition so Kiwi players could join Australian sides and vice-versa.
But the news out of New Zealand has forced Rugby Australia to consider going it alone with a six- or eight-team domestic competition ‘on steroids’, using foreign players to boost depth and appeal in the vein of cricket’s Big Bash.

Penney, who coached in Ireland and Japan before being appointed to the NSW job last year, delivered a stinging critique of New Zealand attitudes to Australia.

“If New Zealand don’t get positive around the relationship they have with Australia that is their loss,” he said. “They probably see themselves in a powerful bubble, which they have done for a number of years. So be it. We’ll create one here and then they’ll come knocking I’m sure.”

Earlier, Penney unveiled an unchanged starting line up for the Waratahs’ round-two clash with the Force on Saturday, backing his Junior Wallabies graduates despite a six-point loss to the Reds last week.

He kept faith with five-eighth Will Harrison, centre Joey Walton, wingers James Ramm and Mark Nawaqanitawase, No.8 Will Harris and loosehead prop Angus Bell, who was schooled in the scrummaging dark arts by Wallabies tighthead Taniela Tupou for Queensland last weekend.
He’s added experience off the bench with veteran Karmichael Hunt recovering from injury, but is otherwise backing the side that lost 32-26 to the Reds in round one.

“Obviously Karmichael is vastly experienced and we’ve got a number of guys on the bench that should be able to add value in those potentially difficult moments when you’re closing a game out,” Penney said. “It’ll be good that Karmichael can add some value there.”

The Force are calling on experienced late recruit Jono Lance to lead the team from five-eighth and pair up with captain Ian Prior in the halves.

Lance is the only late arrival, drafted in from Europe over the past few weeks, to make the starting line-up, as coach Tim Sampson opts for continuity to give his side a shot at an upset at the SCG. Centre Kyle Godwin and prop Greg Holmes will add experience off the bench.

There will be no shortage of spice in the clash. The Force upset the Waratahs 40-11 in their farewell game before being axed from the competition in 2017. Lance and centre Marcel Brache both scored tries, as well as Alex Newsome, who moved to the Waratahs the next season and will start at outside centre on Saturday.

“We’re going to have to be very careful,” Penney said. “It’s these sort of fixtures where one team gets an emotional boost and another team, for one reason or another, might be a bit low and that turns into a massive banana skin.”

For Friday night’s Battle of Brookvale, Rebels coach Dave Wessels has made just one change to his side, benching Wallabies back and local product Reece Hodge in favour of Queenslander Campbell Magnay to outside centre. Wessels said he wanted to manage Hodge’s load and benefit from Magnay’s physical presence in the midfield.

Reds coach Brad Thorn named an unchanged side, setting up former Rebels centre Hunter Paisami for a fascinating midfield clash with former teammate Bill Meakes. Paisami made Wallabies coach Dave Rennie’s original PONI (player of national interest) list, and Meakes did not.

The match will also be another chance for fans to see Queensland’s impressive young back row in action, with Liam Wright, Fraser McReight and Harry Wilson all lining up.

The Waratahs have opened the SCG to Trust and NSW members only, but 3500 tickets are on sale to fans for Friday night’s match at Brookvale.

Super Rugby could be played as an eight-team competition in 2021 between New Zealand’s five franchises and the Waratahs, Reds and Brumbies under the ‘optimal’ format identified by New Zealand Rugby’s Aratipu review.

The review, commissioned earlier this year, has been the source of intense interest across the Tasman but Stuff understands while that participants in the Aratipu review have identified the eight-team format as the best model, the three teams to join the five Kiwi teams remain a matter for discussion.
Given the complexity of putting together a Pacific Islands team that could be sustainable, Rugby Australia could yet have to decide whether to field three sides in a high-quality competition that would engage fans and attract broadcasters.

NZ Rugby CEO Mark Robinson said he had talked to Rugby Australia counterpart Rob Clarke on Thursday morning but wouldn’t be drawn on whether the Australians would accept a competition with only three Australian sides.

“I’m not aware of what Australia are particularly focused on in that area,” Robinson said on Thursday morning.

“It’s been a good dialogue there but there’s nothing we’re hearing about what they would and wouldn’t be open to at this stage.”

Australia currently has five teams in its Super Rugby AU competition, with the Western Force joining the tournament alongside the Melbourne Rebels and the three longstanding franchises.

There is no guarantee the NZ Rugby board will rubber-stamp the eight-team model.

Robinson said the report would only be handed to the board early next week before directors discussed it next Thursday.

Therefore, the option of a 10-team, full trans-Tasman competition is still alive, although there is concern in New Zealand about the strength of Australian rugby on and off the field.

Even Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan recently conceded Australia does not have the depth for five teams at present, while it’s understood NZ Rugby chairman Brent Impey is leaning towards the eight-team model.

The eight-team Aratipu format has also been created to give the top sides a window to participate in possible games against the top South African and/or Japanese sides, or even a mouthwatering ‘club world championship’ fixture between the best side in the southern hemisphere against the best side in the northern hemisphere.

The issue of border closures also continues to weigh on the minds of rugby administrators, but it’s understood that Aratipu does not favour creating a sixth New Zealand team for a domestic competition, due to playing depth and commercial concerns.

“Once the board has considered the report in full and all the different things that fall under the scope of the report we’ll be looking to make a public statement or be available to the media to discuss a full range of issues, including things like formats and the structure of the entities,” Robinson said.