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May the Force be with us, says Mehrtens

NZN 28/03/2017 Darren Walton

All Blacks great Andrew Mehrtens believes cutting the Western Force from Super Rugby would be a big mistake.

For both the good of the game in Australian and in rugby-mad New Zealand rugby.

With the Force the latest Australian franchise said to be in the ARU's firing line as SANZAAR continues to dither over a new competition model for 2018, Mehrtens says it would be a "massive backward step if we lose the Western Force".

"I just think Australia needs to cover the entire country. If this is the sport that says 'we've got world coverage and particularly we've got country coverage here' you've got to stay with the Force," Mehrtens told Fox Sports' Kick and Chase program.

The Crusaders legend maintains SANZAAR should bite the bullet and have a trans-Tasman regional competition with all five Australian franchises plus the five New Zealand franchises and then introduce the best of the South African and Argentine sides for the playoffs.

"I've been on the soapbox talking about South Africa before, whether we actually need them in the preliminary part of the competition, because it's absolutely absurd having this early-season (with) these games covering these three distinct time zones," Mehrtens said.

"In playoffs, yes, let's all get involved.

"But for the good of the competition, expansion into Asia and in our time zone, is the most logical.

"New Zealand rugby needs Australian rugby to be strong and we need the entire country and I think it (removing the Force) would be a shame."

Mehrtens stance is one that former Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock has already proposed.

But Mehrtens can understand why New Zealand rugby boss Steve Tew is opposed.

"At the end of the day, they've got to go where the money is and unfortunately - well, not unfortunately - at the moment South Africa provides the bulk of the revenue that comes in through Super Rugby," Mehrtens said.

"I just think in the long-term interests of the product, we need to look at the logistics of this competition.

"We need to play the majority of it in our time zone, have playoffs with South Africa and hopefully a developing Americas competition over there."

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