SYDNEY (AP) — Clubs from Australia and New Zealand will stage a six-week trans-Tasman tournament next year following their respective domestic Super Rugby competitions.
Rugby Australia on Friday confirmed the trans-Tasman tournament will feature five teams from each country, with the Western Force being the big winner. The Perth-based franchise has effectively been resurrected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, having been cut from Super Rugby two years ago.
Featuring 26 games over six weeks, the new series will kick off on May 14 with the final taking place on June 19.
Each Australian club will play every New Zealand club in crossover games before a championship decider.
All teams will play two home games and two away games as well as a ‘Super Round,’ where all matches played in round three will be played at the one location, over one weekend.
The final will be played between the top-two place teams on the combined competition table, with the top-ranked team hosting the decider.
The New Zealand and Australian unions have been involved in negotiations for months about reviving the international element of Super Rugby after the 2020 season — featuring clubs from South Africa, Argentina, Japan, New Zealand and Australia — was canceled in March because of the spread of COVID-19.
“This is a truly historic day for rugby in the southern hemisphere,” Rugby Australia chief Rob Clarke said. “This will generate enormous excitement across both countries with some of the best players in the world set to challenge each other after the conclusion of Super Rugby AU and Super Rugby Aotearoa.”
New Zealand Rugby chief Mark Robinson said: “Super Rugby Trans-Tasman is a great result for fans on both sides of the Tasman and is testament to the strength of the relationship between New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia."
New Zealand was the first domestic rugby union tournament to relaunch after the lockdown for coronavirus. Australia followed by forming the AU competition with its four Super franchises plus the Western Force. The start of South Africa's domestic tournament was delayed until last month.
New Zealand has dominated competition between teams from the two countries in the last decade, with the Queensland Reds (2011) and New South Wales Waratahs (2014) the only Austarlian clubs winning the Super Rugby title since South Africa's Bulls won in 2010. New Zealand teams have won the last five, including a three-peat by the defending champion Crusaders. In test rugby, it has been even more lopsided, with the New Zealand All Blacks winning the Bledisloe Cup 18 years in a row.
The first round of next year's Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, the Christchurch-based Crusaders will open against the Canberra-based Brumbies, the Western Force will take on the Chiefs, the Melbourne Rebels will be against the Auckland-based Blues, the Highlanders from Dunedin will take on Queensland and the Waratahs will open against the Wellington-based Hurricanes.
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