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Aussies eye extra team in Super 15

AUSTRALIA has vowed to help more Pacific Islanders join the expanded Super 15 competition if it wins the right to field an extra team. The SANZAR countries, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, have agreed to replace the existing Super 14 competition with a 15-team tournament from 2011.

Under the terms of the proposed agreement which still has to be approved by broadcasters, each country will host a five-team conference with the extra team playing in the Australian conference even though it may not necessarily be based there.

SANZAR has agreed the new team will be decided by tender and Australia and South Africa have both indicated they will push for the new franchise.

"We want the 15th team in Australia," Australian Rugby Union Deputy Chief Executive Matt Carroll said yesterday. "We think we'll have a very compelling case and we think the broadcasters will be supportive of it as well."

Carroll said there were some concerns about whether Australia had enough quality players to fill a fifth side after none of its existing four teams made the semifinals this season. However, he said Australia could recruit from different areas, including the Pacific Islands.

"There's plenty of Australian rugby players overseas, there's plenty of young players coming through, there are plenty of NRL (National Rugby League) players who might want to chance their hand in the rugby code," he said. "Part of this expansion and opportunity is also for the Pacific Islanders."

The Super 15 season will be expanded from 14 to 24 weeks, starting in late February and ending in August, except in World Cup years when everything will move forward.

It will also include a three-week break in June to allow for internationals against visiting teams.

The Tri-Nations international series, which normally starts in July, will now commence at the end of the Super 15, in early August, and will follow a permanent pattern.


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