18 May 2017

ARU to meet over Super Rugby cuts

6:19 am on 18 May 2017

Australia's players will have some answers on their Super Rugby futures within a week after the Australian Rugby Union's (ARU) board was forced in to a special general meeting.

The Melbourne Rebels are still awaiting their fate.

The Melbourne Rebels are still awaiting their fate. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

In April the competitions governing body SANZAAR announced two South African and one Australian team will be cut from the 2018 competition.

The restructuring announcement came after widespread criticism of the first season of the 18-team format, which was introduced in 2016 after Argentina's Jaguares and the Sunwolves of Japan joined the competition and the Port Elizabeth-based Kings returned.

Since then there has been speculation about which teams could be on the chopping block but no official confirmation.

The Rugby Union Players Association board, which includes Wallabies captain Stephen Moore and leading Australian Test stars, joined with the Victoria Rugby Union to vote to request the special meeting.

ARU chairman Cameron Clyne said it would be held within the next seven days, waiving the usual 21-day notification required.

"In order to prevent further delays the board is willing to meet with the major stakeholders within a shorter time-frame to detail as much information as we are able on the current process regarding Super Rugby," Clyne said.

ARU Chairman, Cameron Clyne

ARU Chairman, Cameron Clyne Photo: AFP

The union said it wanted the ARU board to give "a transparent, comprehensive update on the ARU's review process to date along with the financial implications of various rationalisation models."

It's unknown whether the special general meeting could see a spill of the ARU board and the exit of directors such chief executive Bill Pulver and Clyne.

The union's support of the VRU comes after Melbourne turned up the heat on it to do more to support the players, saying that the ongoing saga was causing mental health issues in some Rebels.

The ARU announced six weeks ago that either the Rebels or Western Force would be cut from the 2018 downsized competition, with the players association consistently backing the retention of all five teams.

The Rugby Union Players Association said the ARU should withdraw from a 15-team model if it couldn't make the savings it had justified the rationalisation on, with the money used to buy out a club instead put into grass-roots rugby.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika gave threatened players a glimmer of hope this week by saying there was "no guarantee" an Australian team would be cut.

However the ARU quickly knocked that notion on the head, saying his comments were misconstrued.

Former Wallabies skipper Rocky Elsom has been mooted as a saviour of the Rebels, reportedly forming a consortium of private investors to buy the Super Rugby licence from current owner Andrew Cox.

The ARU is believed to have offered Cox around $6 million for the licence so it can shut the club down.

Cox said he'd had lunch with Elsom two weeks ago but had no knowledge of any consortium or an offer.

"I was introduced to Rocky Elsom by a strong supporter of the Melbourne Rebels and the three of us had lunch," Cox told AAP.

"I've had no contact with Elsom since nor have I received any formal or informal offer from him or the syndicate he claims to lead."

Victorian sports minister John Eren this week reportedly demanded Cox and his Imperium Group make a "public announcement of your ongoing commitment to keeping the Rebels in Victoria."

While he wouldn't make such a statement, Cox said he was in ongoing discussions with the government, who are set to up the ante to keep the Rebels in the competition.

"We have an excellent relationship with the government and appreciate their support," Cox said.