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Rugby Australia warns New Zealand it could walk away from Super Rugby in 2024

Former All Black Andrew Mehrtens has suggested Rugby Australia’s bold statement that they’re ready to walk out on New Zealand and Super Rugby could be ruse to stay in the headlines while the SRP final is contested between two Kiwi teams.

But ex-Wallaby Morgan Turinui says RA has every right to explore a different approach, while Tim Horan has warned the “hand grenade” launched by Hamish McLennan could blow up in his own face.

On Thursday, Fox Sports reported that Rugby Australia had told NZR that Australia might leave Super Rugby from 2024 onwards.

“We’ll honour our commitments in ’23 but we need to see what’s best for rugby in Australia leading up to the RWC in Australia in ’27,” RA chairman McLennan told Fox Sports.

“All bets are off from ’24 onwards with NZ.”

“I think we’ve got to be really careful with this,” Horan said on Rugby Heaven, which is to air on the game’s Australian broadcaster Stan Sport later Thursday.

“Hamish has just thrown a hand grenade, but we need the All Blacks, they need us as much as we need them.

“How are you going to have a competition with five Australian Super Rugby teams? You’d get sick of playing each other.

“The fans are just starting to get an understanding of where the calendar lies, and where the table is with 12 teams, with Fijian Drua and (Moana Pasifika).”

Turinui, however, said he confirmed the story with McLennan and believed it was only right that RA explore their options.

“It’s an interesting one in terms of timing, I had a chat with Hamish this afternoon, the Rugby Australia board has discussed it, the Super Rugby teams are behind these discussions,” Turinui said.

“The key is RA and rugby in Australia need to continue to look at what’s best for Australian rugby.”

Turinui said the Super Rugby AU final last year, which drew 41,637 fans for the match between the Brumbies and Reds was “a real watershed moment in the thinking of the game.”

“There was survival around COVID-19, there was disappointment in the relationship with New Zealand Rugby, with New Zealand saying they only wanted two Australian teams in Super Rugby.

“From that has come this year’s Super Rugby Pasifika which I think we can all agree has been quite successful and encouraging.

“It’s about what looks best for Australian rugby from here until the 2027 and 2029 World Cups.

“At the moment we don’t have to be tied to New Zealand. Hamish talked about how he’d prefer to play the All Blacks twice a year and that’s about it, and continue to develop relationships with places like South Africa, who we don’t see in Super Rugby.

Wallabies forward Harry Wilson joined Brett McKay and Harry Jones on this week’s podcast. Listen here!

“It’s an interesting time to not just assume that what we’ve always done before works.

“How’s the last 20 years of Australian rugby been? Why wouldn’t we review? Yes, we’ve been competitive, Australian teams have been better.

“I’ve loved Super Rugby Pacific, but it is a good opportunity to review what suits our players, our Wallabies team, our Super Rugby teams, and the whole structure of Australia Rugby.

“Australian sport is built on tribalism, AFL and NRL. Is it dangerous to try and copy that? Or should we keep doing what we’ve always done and hope we’re better performed in Super Rugby.”

Mehrtens said Super Rugby AU’s success was partly due to the circumstances around the pandemic.

“I think you’ve got to look at the context of how that competition did well. It was necessity, we had to do it, we had to stay within our own countries,” Mehrtens said.

“People were just overjoyed to have sport occurring, when in their private lives they were getting locked up in their houses.

“I think the success of it has to be seen through that lens. The worry of it, with this grenade, is you’ve got to make sure someone doesn’t grab it and throw it back at you at the same time.”

Mehrtens said both nations needed to realise there shouldn’t be any complacency.

“Australia does have to look after the Australian game, New Zealand equally,” he said.

“I think there’s mutual benefit in working together.

“My cynical nature says it’s a bit of a ruse this week. There’s a lot of talk about two New Zealand teams in the final, how do we get Australian rugby back in the headlines this week? Well done, Hamish McLennan.”

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