Temporary measures are set to be put in place in Australian Super Rugby next year to accommodate displaced Western Force players.
Rugby Australia, RUPA and the four Super Rugby clubs will look to develop a plan for 2018 to ensure as many players stay in Australia as possible, a statement from the governing body confirmed on Friday.
One of the big issues in the fallout from the Force’s axing in September was the possibility that upwards of 10 players would be brought over to play for the Rebels under former Force coach Dave Wessels.
Former Force players Dane and Ross Haylett-Petty, Jermaine Ainsley, Tetera Faulkner and Ben Daley have already signed with the Rebels and it’s believed locks Adam Coleman and Matt Philip are also set to make the switch to Melbourne.
Rugby AU high performance boss Ben Whitaker said there wouldn’t necessarilybe an even share of players at each club, there wouldn’t be ‘significant change’ to numbers for 2018.
“Collectively across Rugby Australia, RUPA and the four Super Rugby teams we are developing a transition plan for 2018 to assist us to keep our best talent in Australian Rugby,” he said.
“Unfortunately there isn’t a perfect solution that provides a completely equitable outcome for every team in terms of talent access, but we believe this short-term measure will enable us to keep a number of talented players in Australian Rugby who might not otherwise have stayed in the country, plus ensure financial viability of the Super Rugby system,” Whitaker said.
“Currently our Super Rugby teams can carry core playing squads of 30 players and it is likely that we’ll need to review that number as the teams finalise their squads for 2018.”
Whitaker said the national body would work with each franchise before making a final call.
“We are not expecting any team to have a significant increase in squad size or player spend, but we’ll continue to monitor the situation closely with each team before making a final assessment on squad sizes for next season.
“At this stage several players are still to decide on their destination for 2018.
“Ultimately,what we hope to achieve is to retain our best players in Australia, support the transition of former Western Force players, and give each team the opportunity to develop their squads and achieve winning outcomes next season.
“We are confident that the transition plan will enable us to seamlessly return to an agreed set of contracting conditions for 2019 and beyond.”
A number of high-profile Western Force players are still yet to confirm their plans for 2018, with Tatafu Polota-Nau the most recent to commit to a new club, moving to Premiership side Leicester.
Rugby AU and RUPA are in the early stages of negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement, which will determine how squads will look in 2019 and beyond.