Western Force has officially signed on to join the four Australian Super Rugby teams in an Australia-based competition to be known as Vodafone Super Rugby AU.
The proposed competition will feature at least five teams and was devised after the Vodafone Super Rugby season was suspended in March due to Government-imposed travel and border restrictions. With international border closures remaining in place across each of the competing SANZAAR nations, plans to resume the 15-team, three conference Super Rugby format were abandoned for 2020.
Rugby Australia is aiming to stage the new competition from July 3 through to September 19 in a round robin format, pending final discussions with broadcasters.
Rugby Australia interim CEO, Rob Clarke said: “We are very pleased that Western Force has come on board for Vodafone Super Rugby AU and we look forward to releasing the final elements of the competition, including the season draw in due course.
“We remain in dialogue with the Sunwolves around their potential involvement in the competition, but we now know that we have at least five teams secured and will continue our discussions with Fox Sports and our commercial partners over the coming days.”
Incoming Chairman Hamish McLennan said: “The return of the Western Force in an Australian based competition is a great story. We are grateful for Andrew Forrest’s support and understand that decisions made by Rugby Australia in 2017 were painful for sports fans in Western Australia and the Force players, and we are sorry that they haven’t been able to share in the rivalry against their fellow Australian teams.
“I would love to continue to work with Andrew into the future as we use this opportunity to innovate and reinvigorate Rugby right across the country,” said McLennan.
“Our Australian derby clashes are always up there with the most popular matches each season and it will be great to see those rivalries ignited again in a national competition. Wallabies spots will also be on the line as Dave Rennie and his coaching team run a keen eye over the competition ahead of the international season.
“The players are hard at it in preparation and we can’t wait to get the season restarted on July 3,” he said.