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Force set for Super Rugby axe: report

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 27/03/2017

Matt Philip of the Force offloads the ball during the round five Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Force © Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images Matt Philip of the Force offloads the ball during the round five Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Force The Western Force are reportedly set to be the Australian franchise axed from next year's Super Rugby competition if SANZAAR pushes forward with a proposed restructure.

According to News Limited on Monday night, the Perth-based club will be cut from the current 18-team format as the governing body seeks to reduce the bloated competition to 15 teams.

However, it's believed SANZAAR will only proceed with the planned competition changes if South Africa agrees to cut two of their six teams.

They're due to make a decision by April 6, with the Southern Kings looking vulnerable along with either the Cheetahs or Lions.

There's been plenty of speculation over which of the five Australian clubs would be punted following a SANZAAR meeting in London two weeks ago that centred on the preferred format.

The NSW Waratahs and Queensland Reds were always going to be safe, leaving the Canberra-based Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels and Force to fight it out for survival.

Two-time champions the Brumbies are Australia's most successful franchise, the privately-owned Rebels have struggled to make a mark since their inaugural season in 2011 and the Force have never made the Super Rugby finals in their 11-season history.

The Force launched a new franchise ownership campaign last week with interested parties asked to buy shares in the club.

The Force were quick to issue a statement in response to the news.

"Under no circumstances do we believe today's speculation around the future of the Western Force to be true," the statement read.

"Two and half weeks ago, through a national phone link-up all clubs were told that the ARU through the governing body, SANZAAR was investigating a number of issues and those issues had to be resolved prior to a decision being made to reduce any of the Australian franchises.

"There has been no further contact from the Australian Rugby Union to any of the Western Force players or staff, so at this time there is no further comment on the matter until substantiated facts are put forward."

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