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Rebels owner confident about Super future

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 6/03/2017 Melissa Woods

Melbourne owner Andrew Cox is confident the Rebels aren't on the Super Rugby chopping block, saying the Australian Rugby Union can't afford to cut them.

SANZAAR (South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina Rugby) officials will meet in London on Friday to thrash out the format for the flagging competition in 2018 and beyond.

One option is to cut an Australian team and Melbourne's woeful start to the Super Rugby season appears to have put them in the firing line, but Cox is not concerned.

While Melbourne-based Christchurch businessman Cox wants to see the five Australian teams retained, he says if one has to be cut it will "highly unlikely" be the Melbourne franchise which his Imperium Capital Group bought from the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) in 2015.

"Economically I doubt the ARU could afford to do it," Cox said.

"We've got stadium deals, new facilities we've invested a lot of money in and there's significant issues with that."

He couldn't reveal details of the share, sale and purchase agreement between the Rebels and the ARU or whether there was any guarantee of their long-term future.

"We're a very important market for Fox (pay television) as we're the second best advertising market in Australia so there's a whole host of things that make it highly unlikely."

Cox wants all player-import restrictions for Australian clubs relaxed to improve the standard and a simpler competition format, with the current convoluted draw a turn-off for fans.

He also wants SANZAAR to axe the June Test window, when the competition loses all momentum.

Cox questioned the priorities of the ARU and the Super Rugby competition.

"It's got to come back to, `Is the sole purpose of the Super Rugby comp in Australia to provide players for the Wallabies?'

"I would have thought its purpose was to provide an entertaining, professional sporting package to our fans and members and by that, grow participation and ultimately Wallabies."

Despite the Rebels losing their opening two rounds to the Blues and Hurricanes and conceding 127 points to anchor the ladder, Cox said Melbourne coach Tony McGahan had his full support.

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