Aussie Players Union pushes Japan for Super 15

Australia’s Rugby players Union RUPA has urged rugby bosses not to dismiss Japan as a serious candidate for inclusion in the 2011 Super 15  if it goes ahead.

Melbourne and the Gold coast have emerged as the front runners and have promised a huge fight to be the fifth team in the Australian conference of the expanded competition.

RUPA however says Japan should not be overlooked.

Australian Rugby Union boss John O’Neill this week indicated governing body SANZAR believed Japan was a more likely prospect for a Super 16 or Super 20 in 2015, and wasn’t ready now.

But RUPA boss Tony Dempsey said tournament organisers needed to be more conscious of the commercial benefits of opening the door to Japan.

“Our underlying philosophy is if we’re going to expand, we have to expand to areas that are going to give the competition commercial return as well,” Dempsey told AAP.

“We have to look beyond what looks altruistic and what looks attractive to the average rugby follower and be commercial about this as well because we are living in a very competitive sporting market.

“Japan is the second biggest economy in the world and they love their rugby up there.

“We don’t want to dismiss them too early in the process, they should be considered.”

Dempsey admitted that if a Japanese team did go ahead then they would need foreign players to be competitive.

Australia is no certainty of housing the fifth team and South Africa stubbornly want a side from the Eastern Cape to be admitted.

O’Neill signalled the start of a bidding war when he asked for immediate expressions of interest and “competitive tension” for the 15th licence after a SANZAR board meeting in Dubai

He spoke of Melbourne, Gold Coast, western Sydney, Gosford and Newcastle as all having cases for inclusion in a Melbourne Cup-like field but admitted only “one or two” were genuine contenders.

Rugby Gold Coast chief executive Tim Rowlands conceded the Victorian Rugby Union, which narrowly lost out to Perth in 2004 when the competition expanded to the Super 14, were clear favourites.

“Melbourne have done all their groundwork, all their infrastructure is in place and we’re only starting from scratch,” he said.

“But if you ask the players where they would rather play, I’m sure they would definitely say Gold Coast over Melbourne.”

Rugby Gold Coast which stretches down to Northern NSW have also welcomed O’Neill’s plans of a “hybrid team” including a host of Pacific Islanders, rising and expat Australians and the “odd league player” to ensure the existing four teams wouldn’t be undermined.

“There’s a very strong Polynesian population on the coast,” Rowlands said.


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