Published: Fri, August 11, 2017
Sport | By Gary Shelton

Ex-Force skipper Sharpe slams ARU decision

Ex-Force skipper Sharpe slams ARU decision

In a dramatic day for Australian rugby, the Western Force have been axed from the Super Rugby competition and ARU chief Bill Pulver has announced he will quit.

The ARU agreed to cut one of its five franchises during a meeting of Super Rugby stakeholders in April, when it was made a decision to reduce the competition from 18 clubs to 15 for next season.

The Super Rugby competition, which features sides from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and Japan, initially expanded to 15 teams from 2011 before adding three further sides in 2016.

The decision to cut one of the Australian franchises was first announced in April, and the Force and the Melbourne Rebels were quickly identified as the two teams on the chopping block.

However, this is not necessarily the end of the long-running saga, with Western Force's parent body Rugby WA likely to take the case to the Supreme Court if it wins the right to appeal.

"We are regretful that this issue has consumed so much of the public commentary on the game in 2017", ARU chairman Cameron Clyne said.

They have never reached the playoffs and the ARU gradually moved to the view that having five Super Rugby teams was stretching Australia's rugby resources too thinly.

RugbyWA responded nearly immediately with a statement saying it would pursue "every possible means", including legal action, to ensure the Western Force remained in the competition.

Asked why the Force asked were cut rather than the Rebels, Pulver said: "We did an exhaustive analysis, a massive spreadsheet on all the variables that went into this decision".

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"This is a sad day for rugby, especially for Western Force fans", Clyne said.

The fight from Western Australia might not yet be over, however.

Force players on the attack.

It wasn't just Force players voicing their disappointment, with the players advocating for the maintenance of five teams throughout the whole process.

"We want leadership from the Australian Rugby Union, not cowardly litigation", Forrest said.

Of the two, it's the Force who arguably had more traction with fans, yet they're the ones who've been sacrificed as the Super Rugby competition is pared back from 18 teams to 15. We have staff in Perth and are in regular contact with all contracted players at the Force and their respective agents.

He said RUPA would support players affected by the decision.

"It is a ludicrous and unfair legal initiative by the ARU. We understand that Rugby WA are considering their legal position from this point forward and we respect their rights to explore such avenues".

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