SYDNEY (Reuters) - Incoming Rugby Australia Chairman Hamish McLennan says he is keen to strengthen ties with New Zealand and hopes a trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition can be set up from next year to help ease the financial strain from the coronavirus shutdown.
McLennan, who succeeds interim chairman Paul McLean on Monday, told The Australian newspaper his top priority was to shore up the organisation's finances as the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cloud the future of Super Rugby.
"The first step is to secure the financial future of the game," he told the newspaper on Saturday. "That incorporates everything from the broadcast deal, to working with our commercial partners, to fixing Super Rugby.
"We have to determine what our product is so that we can sell it to the broadcasters.
"If I had my way, given the circumstances with COVID, a cross-Tasman competition makes the most sense and will be the most valuable commodity to sell."
The wider Super Rugby competition, which involves teams from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and Japan, has been on hold since mid-March as governments imposed travel curbs aimed at restricting the spread of the novel coronavirus.
There is little chance of a cross-border tournament featuring Super Rugby teams this year, with New Zealand, Australia and South Africa all deciding to stage domestic competitions.
New Zealand's 'Super Rugby Aotearoa' starts later on Saturday.
Super Rugby was already undergoing a revamp before the season was halted due to the pandemic, with Japanese side the Sunwolves cut at the end of this season.
Argentine rugby officials have also encouraged Jaguares players to take deals overseas with the team's future also in doubt.
The coronavirus pandemic has also hit Rugby Australia's finances hard, with the national body asking players to take pay cuts and implementing massive staff layoffs.
Raelene Castle resigned as chief executive in April, while McLennan is the fourth chairman in four months.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford)