SYDNEY (REUTERS) – The door was not quite closed on Japan’s Sunwolves joining an Australian domestic competition involving Super Rugby teams, while negotiations for a new broadcast agreement had been “fruitful”, Rugby Australia (RA) said on Saturday (May 23).
Super Rugby was postponed after seven weeks in mid-March as governments imposed travel bans due to the coronavirus crisis, and Australia has announced plans for a six-team competition starting in July that could include the Sunwolves.
“We are still in discussion with the Sunwolves and the Australian government on that,” RA interim chief executive Rob Clarke told reporters on a conference call when asked if the Japan-based side had been ruled out of the competition. “It’s not a quick process.”
The Sunwolves, who have already said they are eager to participate, said in a statement on Saturday that negotiations between RA and the Australian government are currently going on about the team being allowed to take part.
The competition, potentially comprising the four Australian Super Rugby sides, the Perth-based Western Force and the Sunwolves, is something of a stop-gap measure to help RA through a financial crisis that has been exacerbated by the shutdown caused by the pandemic.
The organisation is also yet to secure a new broadcasting agreement from next year, but Clarke said that was his top priority and he had been in active discussions about a new contract with current broadcaster Fox Sports.
“Those discussions will continue next week,” he said.
“I’m confident we will get some clarity fairly soon (especially) given we are trying to kick off a domestic Super Rugby competition.
“Time is of the essence and those conversations are well advanced.”
Clarke added that the RA was “open minded” about talks that southern hemisphere rugby body Sanzaar and the northern hemisphere Six Nations organisers have entered into about potential realignment of the global calendar.
“We should be open minded to any solution that potentially brings in better commercial outcomes as long as it doesn’t compromise the high performance outcomes of the Wallabies,” he said.
The Sunwolves, who are in their final Super Rugby season, have played a handful of games each season in Singapore since their 2016 debut.
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