Copy cats: Rugby could turn to NRL to save game
If imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery then Rugby Australia will have the NRL to thank if the latest radical proposal to get the struggling 15-man code back up and running comes to fruition.
But the left-field plan - which could see the Rugby Championship played at a single location - may not be enough to save embattled RA chief executive Raelene Castle.
Under increasing pressure to keep her job with RA still to secure a new broadcast deal, Castle's role is expected to come under immediate scrutiny the moment RA finalises its pay cut deal with the players' union - which is now closer than ever after weeks of negotiating.
Talks between RA and RUPA broke down on the weekend but an agreement is expected to be reached on Wednesday after the parties reconvened with a two-hour video conference on Tuesday.
"We have made good progress," Castle said in a statement.
"There are 192 professional players across the country and we understand RUPA wanting to consult broadly with their membership on these discussions.
"Both parties appreciate what is at stake and the players recognise their role and shared responsibility in securing the future and helping the game navigate through this unprecedented challenge."
While the pending deal on pay cuts will shift the focus to RA's leadership, the agreement will come too late for the NSWRU, which backed away from threats to immediately stand players down until a settlement is made.
The Waratahs will receive their full monthly salaries today but on the proviso that deductions will be made to their future payments in order to square the ledger once the size of the cuts are known.
The Waratahs - who have already stood down a large number of non-playing staff including head coach Rob Penney and placed everyone else on heavily reduced pay - were prepared to carry through with plans to stand players down, but decided at the last minute to pay them out in full to avoid any risk of derailing the delicate negotiations.
RA wants players to agree to a 65 per cent cut over six months but RUPA is understood to want a more flexible model, which includes reduced cuts for players on lower wages and options for players to consider overseas offers if the financial situation in Australia doesn't approve after the coronavirus lockdown ends.
That will boil down to what broadcast deal RA can negotiate and when matches can resume.
RA has already prepared a string of contingency competition plans that depend on when the green light is given for teams to travel, but SANZAAR boss Andy Marinos threw a spanner in the works by suggesting the Rugby Championship follow the NRL's lead and base the Wallabies, All Blacks, Springboks and Pumas in a single country.
"Logic would suggest if there is an ability to create like what we've seen with the NRL around a bubble, if it's all in one location it seems a bit easier," he told New Zealand's Newshub.
"At this point in time, we'd be silly to rule out anything."
The Rugby Championship is not due to start until August 8 so the first priority is to get Super Rugby started.
With international travel unlikely to resume for months, the most likely scenario is that teams from the same country will play each other when the competition initially resumes then travel later in the year - even if meant clashing with the Rugby Championship.
Although it would not be an ideal scenario with teams disadvantaged if they lose their international players, Marinos said it was possible the provincial and international competitions could be played at the same time.
"We are hell bent and have every intention of delivering the complete package," Marinos said,
"Could you be playing the Rugby Championship at the same time as a domestic competition?" Marinos said.
"It's not trying to rubbish one for the other, it's how do we get a sensible solution in what may be a restricted time frame?"
Originally published as Copy cats: Rugby could turn to NRL to save game