24 Sep 2008

O'Neill says SANZAR competitions set to expand

9:36 am on 24 September 2008

The Australian Rugby Union CEO John O'Neill says rugby in the southern hemisphere is poised for major changes not seen since the sport went professional in 1995.

O'Neill says the annual Super rugby competition which involves 14 teams at present could expand to 18 sides, possibly into Japan and North America, by 2013.

Test matches between Australia and New Zealand could also be hosted overseas.

The Wallabies and All Blacks are to play a Bledisloe Cup match in Hong Kong on November first before both teams travel on to Europe for test matches over the following four weeks.

While teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa compete for the Super 14 title, O'Neill has long been keen on expanding the competition into Japan to tap into the lucrative Asian markets.

New Zealand officials have also been interested in including the south Pacific nations, while Argentina has been suggested as realigning within an expanded pan-Pacific international competition.

The NZRU have also signed a co-operation agreement with USA Rugby, and local media have reported the All Blacks were examining playing tests in the United States, either against Australia in Denver, or Ireland in Boston or New York.