Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan came out firing on 1170 SEN Mornings on Wednesday, backing up his threat to leave Super Rugby amidst a souring relationship with New Zealand Rugby.
McLennan told host Matt White: “New Zealand’s done what’s right for them for years and years and years,” and, “We need to look at what’s right for us,” enhancing concerns the nation will tear away from the competition.
The chairman’s threat has been met with mixed responses from the rugby community, with SENZ Breakfast host Tony Kemp suggesting he is calling “New Zealand’s bluff” as the nation wouldn't survive on its own.
“He’s had a really decent crack hasn’t he,” Kemp said on SENZ Breakfast.
“What it looks like is he’s called New Zealand’s bluff. That's basically what he’s doing. He's saying, ‘Well if you don’t want to come to the party, we’re just going to walk away, and yes, we’ve got to get 3-5 teams to make a professional competition, but we believe that we can do that.’
“The numbers in Australia … you could probably do it, but everybody knows that in Australia, private schools are where rugby is played and rugby league, through Brisbane and NSW especially, and AFL through Melbourne, are the main sport of choice for every kid.
“So, if he thinks people are just going to whip into professional clubs and create pathways overnight, the guy’s got rocks in his head.”
Former NZ cricketer and SENZ Mornings host Ian Smith worries that separating from NZ will decrease the engagement Australian rugby has with players and fans and will “dilute” their current talent.
“Where are you going to find the players from mate? I mean, Hamish, to be perfectly honest, where are you going to find the quality of players?,” he said.
“Because, if you want to keep the standard of those five current ones (franchises) at the level they’re at, and you want to improve it, you don’t want to dilute them by splitting all of those players and making up the extra three franchises that you’re looking for or the three teams you’re looking for.
“Have you got the depth? Are you confident you’ve got the depth to produce a game of rugby which will out-rate the Brumbies versus the Crusaders on your stations over there?
“I don’t get it.”
Having gained the rights to host both the 2027 and 2029 Rugby World Cups, Rugby Australia will have plenty of tough decisions to make in the coming seasons of Super Rugby.