Super 14
O'Neill hints at Super 14 expansion
Scrum.com
February 3, 2009

Australian Rugby Union (ARU) chief John O'Neill believes that the Super 14 could become the Super 15 as soon as 2011. Talks between SANZAR (South Africa, New Zealand and Australia) had previously broken down after the parties were unable to agree a change to the finals system that would see six teams progress.

Now O'Neill has intimated that an expanded Super 14 will potentially contain a side from Japan or the Pacific Islands and will indeed have a six-team final system. Given the fact that South Africa have recently announced the formation of a new Super Rugby franchise on the Eastern Cape, to be launched during the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa, this could become a contentious issue.

The proposed expanded format will see teams play each other once in a round-robin competition before teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa would play teams from their own country again.

"There's a range of options [being discussed], the one in favour at the moment is a Super 15 competition, going from March 1 to the beginning of August, everyone playing each other once and then each of the teams playing in their conferences," O'Neil told the AAP. "People ask me what are broadcasters thinking, we actually don't know yet.

"We know they have an appetite for Super rugby and we know they have an appetite for expansion but the big unknown is what will they pay."

O'Neill stressed that any changes to the format must be unanimously agreed by SANZAR and also warned that there would be no expansion if broadcasters did not show an interest.

"I think everyone still has a black ball that they can throw in there," O'Neill said. "The ARU's preference is for expansion in a way that's fiscally responsible, but then again if nothing changes then we have to wait another five years to have a crack at it.

"So the metre is ticking, dialogue is good, we're all open to the same ideas that we were talking about last year, but I guess we're not immune at all to the reality of the economic climate."

© Scrum.com

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