Rugby Australia boss takes jab at New Zealand after ‘ironic’ draw

WELLINGTON (AFP) – Rugby Australia Chairman Hamish McLennan delivered a broadside against his New Zealand counterparts yesterday after a “wondrously ironic” 16-16 Test draw undercut assertions that Australian teams don’t deserve equal billing in a revamped Super Rugby competition.

McLennan claimed vindication after the Wallabies’ much-improved display in Wellington on Sunday – when they were inches from victory as Reece Hodge’s post-siren penalty hit the upright.

“All year we’ve been told that we can’t compete, and we don’t have the player strength, so a 16-16 draw was wondrously ironic,” he told Stuff.co.nz.

Rugby’s governing bodies in New Zealand and Australia have been locked in arguments over the future of Super Rugby and the format of this year’s Test-level Rugby Championship.

Cash-strapped Australia has accused New Zealand – which has the larger market and the stronger teams – of arrogance after Kiwi officials said up to three Australian sides should be left out of a trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition.

New Zealand’s Damian McKenzie tackles Australia’s Marika Koroibete as he scores a try during the Bledisloe Cup rugby union match between New Zealand and Australia in Wellington on October 11. PHOTO: AFP

McLennan earlier said that the relationship between administrators either side of the Tasman was at the “lowest ebb it’s ever been”.

New Zealand, Australia and South Africa all organised domestic versions of Super Rugby this year after the southern hemisphere tournament was halted by the coronavirus pandemic.

But South Africa is now hoping to put four of its teams into Europe’s PRO14 after New Zealand unveiled a proposal ditching South African sides and Argentina’s Jaguares.

Rugby Australia insisted all five of its teams must be included, rather than the two to four proposed by New Zealand.

As it stands, New Zealand and Australia are set to continue to operate separate domestic Super Rugby competitions in 2021, although plans remain fluid in such uncertain times.

McLennan said a Kiwi proposal to include unproven teams from Hong Kong, Hawaii and an Auckland-based Pacific team was questionable.

“We were instructed that New Zealand wanted to create a world-class competition, and so three new teams go forward – that makes a mockery of the original premise,” McLennan said.

“How could you compare those teams to the Brumbies or the Reds?”