Super Rugby Pacific: Rugby Australia threatens to break from New Zealand Rugby in shock move

·3-min read
 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Rugby Australia are exploring the option of ending their ties with New Zealand Rugby and setting up a domestic-only competition, according to reports down under.

Five franchises each from Australia and New Zealand currently ply their trade in the 12-team Super Rugby Pacific tournament, but RA have not committed beyond the 2024 season.

“We’ll honour our commitments in ’23 but we need to see what’s best for rugby in Australia leading up to the RWC in Australia in ’27,” chairman Hamish McLennan told

“All bets are off from ’24 onwards with NZ.”

Broadcasting revenue the sticking point

The Sydney Morning Herald have reported that an imbalance in the broadcasting revenue, which is around $60m, is the driving force behind RA’s move.

Australia’s governing body were also disappointed that the South Africans and Argentinians were discarded by Brent Impey, the former chairman of New Zealand Rugby (NZR).

McLennan notified current NZR chair Stewart Mitchell on Thursday of their intention to potentially quit Super Rugby Pacific.

Mark Robinson, NZR’s chief executive, provided a stern response when asked about McLennan’s comments.

“From our view, NZR is committed to our relationship with RA and any discussions in relation to the future of Super Rugby will be had first and foremost with them, and not through the media,” Robinson told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Prior to Covid-19, when South Africa were part of Super Rugby, the television money used to be split equally between the SANZAAR nations, but that has not been the case over the past two years.

Currently, NZR have a $91m deal in place with with Sky while RA only receive $29m from Nine and Stan Sports.

“The RA Board doesn’t want to prejudice the PE/debt process with any competitions presented as a fait accompli,” McLennan said.

“Some board members have strong opinions that a domestic only competition like the AFL and NRL would generate more money for the game and that is fair comment.”

Former New Zealand international Andrew Mehrtens doesn’t believe that a split would be beneficial for Rugby Australia.

“I don’t think it would be in the best interests of Australian rugby to isolate, to be honest,” he said.

“We have seen what the competition has been like this year. Yes, we know there were crowds that were good last year and supported Super Rugby AU but even more so, I reckon people have got excited about a full unified competition this year.

“Last year was just the context of COVID-19 and people were happy to just see any sport being on. Hamish has got to act in the best interests of Australian rugby and there are negotiations going on constantly, I’d imagine.

“They have a big tailwind with the Rugby World Cups in 2027 and 2029, plus Olympics, so I guess he is feeling Australian rugby stocks are rising generally and he is maybe getting on the front foot a little bit. I would have thought behind the scenes there will be more amicable discussions.

“You can find paths that benefit each country, as well as benefiting the two together, and I am sure they will be working with that. I reckon New Zealand would want to work together.

“I think rugby support in Australia is better served and better channelled and better attracted in the format of Super Rugby we have seen this year. Next year will be even better with, fingers crossed, a fully blended season right from the start.”

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