Aussies want another franchise

Australian Rugby MD John O’Neill believes adding a fifth Super 14 franchise can be sustained by the country.

With the Super Rugby expansion planned for 2011 and despite calls that the existing 14-team format is already too many, O’Neill believes otherwise. The crowds have been sparse in the initial stages of this year’s competition, especially Down Under, but O’Neill maintained that broadcasting figures are positive and that the four existing Australian franchises are in the blue despite the global economic climate.

Before departing for Dubai for a Sanzar meeting, O’Neill said he would push for an extra Australian team.

“We are working very hard with the Waratahs, Reds, Brumbies and Western Force to ensure that they remain financially well and healthy,” said O’Neill.

“There’s no alarm bells ringing at the moment. We’ve got good sponsorship, good broadcasting revenue coming in.”

The Sanzar meeting is scheduled for Wednesday and he hoped they would make progress on the matter with their South African and Kiwi counterparts.

“I hope the meeting in Dubai really narrows down the differences,” said O’Neill.

“We made a lot of progress last year on a Super 15 model which has an additional team in the Australian Conference and one round where everyone plays each other and a second round where you played in your conference,” he said.

“It gave you a lot more home and away content and a six-team finals series and up until September last year that was the way forward.

“We came unstuck and even failed to get the six-team finals series up for this year, so we are back at the drawing board.”

O’Neill said the additional franchise could be based in Melbourne, the Gold Coast, western Sydney, Newcastle, or even Japan.