Italy will be Victoria’s Super Rugby test

Wallaby flanker Rocky Elsom says that the Wallabies Test match in Melbourne will damage the Victorian rugby union’s chances of getting a team in the Super 15 if the local fans don’t come out in force.

Ticket sales for the match in Melbourne have been a little slow and the Etihad Stadium could be barely one-third full next Saturday.

It is possible that up to 20,000 will attend the second Wallaby test match against the same opposition in two weeks, the Australian Rugby Union is still eyeing the more optimistic figure of 25,000.

Traditionally the Wallabies playing Italy does not attract terribly large crowds.

In the Six Nations the Italian are the most recent nation to enter the tournament and are still struggling to move from their perennial last place. This year they finished last again even though they do have a strong scrum.

When the two teams last met in 2005 the clash could only attract 26,520 people and Melbourne has shown that it will respond when better quality opposition has been involved.

The Victorian Rugby Union are putting the final touches on their bid for the 15th Super Rugby franchise which will be added to the Super 14 to make a Super 15.

It has already been agreed that the franchise will be based in Australia although the city where the Super 15 franchise will play their home matches is not yet known – that decision is expected later this year.

Melbourne’s bid faces strong competition from rugby heartland areas such as the Gold Coast and western Sydney.

Elsom who will miss this weekend’s match through injury says that he has little doubt that the franchise would be well supported but said that fans will need to show their support now to help “getting the bid through”.

“I think Melbourne can accommodate any sporting event, let alone a Super franchise.” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Everybody knows that it is set up for sport, but the big thing for Melbourne and the Melbourne franchise is to convince the union that they have the type of interest to support a Super Rugby team, not this and next year but long term,” Elsom said.

“This is where this game is so important, because the type of interest this game brings will directly reflect on the bid that they are going to try to put in, so I would say that it is a very important week for the Super 15 franchise.”

“I don’t think there’s anyone involved in the Melbourne franchise that discounts the effect that crowd numbers will have on their bid going forward.”

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