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Australia, New Zealand say 'not now' to World Series Rugby

Sydney Morning Herald logo Sydney Morning Herald 11/10/2018 Georgina Robinson
'Not now': NSW Rugby says the state has groundwork to do before western Sydney is ready for a professional team. © Louie Douvis 'Not now': NSW Rugby says the state has groundwork to do before western Sydney is ready for a professional team. Snagged: Andrew Forrest's hope for a team in Sydney's west has hit a huge stumbling block. © Richard Wainwright Snagged: Andrew Forrest's hope for a team in Sydney's west has hit a huge stumbling block.

Mining magnate Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest's World Series Rugby vision has suffered a major setback after Australia and New Zealand said they would block the rebel league in western Sydney and across the Tasman until after 2020.

With the format of Super Rugby and the international Test schedule both up in the air, it is understood Rugby Australia (RA) and New Zealand Rugby (NZR) have told Forrest they will not support his bid to put teams in western Sydney and New Zealand until after both are resolved.

With the new Super Rugby agreement to start in 2021 and the global calendar on a similar time frame, the news means that apart from the Western Force, World Series Rugby will not have any Australian or New Zealand teams until then at the very earliest.

Under a plan circulated amongst the unions, Forrest's vision was for an eight-team competition to start in February next year with a team in western Sydney, at least one in New Zealand and Japan, as well as the Western Force.

NSW Rugby Union boss Andrew Hore said on Thursday that NSW supported the positions of RA and NZR, saying it was a case of not "never", just "not now", as the NSWRU itself fights to breathe life into the huge but underutilised region.

"There won't be a World Series team there next year. As we know there's a lot of work to be done in and around western Sydney and nobody's saying no to that but making sure it's done in an effective way," he said.

"Our whole focus at the moment has been on unifying the game so anything we do has to be tied to our new governance model and have the full support of the rugby community, otherwise you just end up with another fraction.

"That's still open for discussion but I think everyone's in agreement it could all be too quick. You've got 2020 on the horizon and the renegotiation of where rugby will be after that."

It is a major setback for Forrest and the World Series team, but is unlikely to daunt the determined magnate. Hore hinted that Forrest had already heard the news from RA boss Raelene Castle, who had a working dinner with the billionaire and her NZR counterpart, Steve Tew, last month.

"I think Raelene's alluded to that and it seems that both her and Steve Tew have had some good meetings, which is good, and we had one meeting with his representative," Hore said.

"I think everyone's under agreement that you can't put a professional team and build it on sand, it just doesn't work. So all of the other variables that make a team like that sustainable and potentially, whether it will go ahead at all, needs further discussion.

"To try to put a professional team in by next March - nobody's got the resource probably outside Twiggy's group at this stage. Because at the end of the day we've got to look after 100,000 rugby players in our own state. With everything else going on it's a lot of work."

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