Aus-NZ hybrid game mooted as World Rugby defends Samoa treatment
Plans are under consideration for a hybrid match between New Zealand’s national rugby union team and the Australian rugby league team which could be worth over A$50 million ($38 million), albeit there are contrasting views over whether it will actually go ahead.
The All Blacks and the Kangaroos are the defending world champions in their respective codes, and the latter are presently looking to defend their title in the Rugby League World Cup taking place down under.
It is envisaged that the hybrid game would be held in Tokyo in a window after the 2019 Rugby World Cup, rugby union’s showpiece event, in Japan, with the teams to receive A$10 million each, according to Australia’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.
The proposal has emanated from New South Wales-based Hybrid Rugby whose chairman Phil Franks and director Mark Ella, a former Australia rugby union star, have met with officials from New Zealand Rugby and the Australian Rugby League, and plan to visit Japan next month to raise funding for the match.
Further details, including the nature of the game (rugby union teams comprise 15 players and rugby league teams only 13, and the rules differ in important respects) have yet to be disclosed.
Franks told the newspaper: “I had a formal discussion with the New Zealand Rugby Union and they were really interested. They stipulated they wanted to see an elite-class game. They are the first to give us a window and a time as to when they want to do it. That window was two weeks after the 2019 World Cup final in Tokyo [on 2 November]
“We are absolutely confident we can put it together. This game will be worth A$50 million. It will be just as big as the final of the World Cup. My view is that the teams will share the revenue. They will be getting the lion’s share of the money.
“Let me put it this way, there will be at least A$10 million for each team. At least. That’s what the game will generate.”
However, Steve Tew, the chief executive of NZR, has played down the prospect, telling stuff.co.nz: "We get asked to consider a large number of proposals regularly, and in this case, we were approached over a year ago about the possibility of a hybrid game.
"Other than that initial conversation, there have been no other discussions and this is definitely not something we are pursuing."
The proposed lucrative hybrid game contrasts with the situation the Samoa Rugby Union appears to finds itself in, ahead of the national team’s forthcoming matches in the UK.
Tuila’epa Sailele Malilielegaoi, the Samoan prime minister and chairman of the SRU, claimed yesterday that the governing body is “bankrupt”.
Samoa are set to play Scotland at Murrayfield in Edinburgh this Saturday and England at Twickenham in London on 25 November.
England’s Rugby Football Union confirmed yesterday that it planned to make a £75,000 ($98,000) donation to the SRU as a goodwill gesture. The Samoan body is understood to have debts of around £300,000, and a JustGiving page has been set up on the internet with the aim of raising £150,000 to support the nation's players.
Malilielegaoi told the Samoan Observer: "We are bankrupt. In other words we are insolvent. It means the union cannot continue to pay off debts with the banks. We also need money to pay the players so they can continue to play."
The SRU’s plight has refocused attention on the level of financial support for the tier-two nations, in particular the Pacific Islands teams, although World Rugby today defended its role, saying that Samoa was receiving direct and indirect investment of £1.5 million in 2017.
Peter Horne, World Rugby general manager, high performance, said: “In the 2016-19 cycle, World Rugby will invest an estimated £20.3 million in programmes for Fiji, Tonga and Samoa which is an increase of 19 per cent on the last cycle.”
He added: “As we work towards RWC 2019, we need to ensure the three Pacific Island teams are as competitive as possible and this increase in world-class staffing and support will really benefit the squads.”