History in the making for Australian rugby
BILLIONARE Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest has unveiled a historic offer of collaboration between the new Indo Pacific Rugby Championship and the Australian Rugby Union.
Forrest revealed bold plans on Wednesday to reinstate Australia as the world rugby leader and enhance the country's opportunity to win the Rugby World Cup in Japan 2019.
The mining magnate said that IPRC's offer to collaborate with the ARU will also "provide the significant resources to encourage our finest Australian rugby athletes, currently playing overseas, or considering leaving, to join a vibrant, successful international competition, played in the same time zone and based in Australia.”
Forrest tried unsuccessfully to save the Force from an ARU Super Rugby cull and now says he wants to work with the game's governing body and help bankroll the second-tier National Rugby Championship.
"The IPRC will select its schedule to complement Super Rugby's and so prepare Australian players and coaches, from both competitions, to help Australia field the greatest team in the world,” a statement from Forrest read.
"The IPRC will work with the ARU to grow Australia's rugby grassroots support base, inspire young players, attract powerful sponsorship and broadcaster interest and be fast moving and highly spectator friendly.
"Exciting innovations related to men's and women's sevens rugby will be incorporated.
"Preparation and pre-competition game scheduling has commenced.
"Games are being planned now for the Western Force players in preparation for the 2018 season.
"The player pathway to the IPRC and the Wallabies will be bolstered with more energy and resources into the National Rugby Championship through a significant naming rights partnership.”
"We envision the future of rugby union as a most popular global competition in the fastest growing consumer market in the world, where over 60 per cent of the world's people live in the same time zone,” Forrest said.
The Indo Pacific Rugby Championship will launch with initially six teams playing matches in a friendly time zone critical for sponsors that captures most of the world's population.
The competition will focus on countries that either have an established, or growing, interest in rugby union.
Markets include, but are not limited to: Australia, Singapore, Samoa, Fiji, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia.
The IPRC will work with other countries in the development of critical skills and capacity for rugby in Asia, providing a clear pathway for the development of players, coaches, referees and administrators across the Indo Pacific region.
The ARU responded to Forrest's press conference on Wednesday by issuing a short statement.
"The Australian Rugby Union has confirmed it is in discussions with Andrew Forrest and his Minderoo team on his proposed Indo-Pacific Rugby Championship.
ARU chairman Cameron Clyne said: "ARU is involved in collaborative discussions with Andrew Forrest and his Minderoo team and we look forward to continuing these discussions over the coming weeks.
"We do not wish to comment on the specifics of any proposed new competitions while these discussions are at a preliminary stage.
"ARU remains committed to maintaining a strong rugby presence in Western Australia and will explore all options in this regard.”