'Australia-NZ relations at lowest ebb'

Breakdown in relations comes amid financial pressures due to the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty over Super Rugby

By Reuters

Last Updated: 30/09/20 7:43am

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan is hopeful the relationship between Australia and New Zealand can be repaired

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan is hopeful the relationship between Australia and New Zealand can be repaired

Relations between southern hemisphere rugby powers Australia and New Zealand have plunged to their “lowest ebb”, according to Rugby Australia (RA) chairman Hamish McLennan.

Australia and New Zealand have been in dispute in recent months, trading barbs over the 2021 format for Super Rugby and the scheduling of the four-nation Rugby Championship.

“There is respect there, but the relationship is at probably the lowest ebb it’s ever been at,” McLennan told New Zealand broadcaster Sky Sport.

“But I’m trying my hardest to fix that over time. I think the fundamental issue from us is that (New Zealand) have got to respect our position.”

The breakdown in relations has come amid financial pressures due to the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty over the future of southern hemisphere competition, following South Africa’s decision to pull teams from Super Rugby.

McLennan said Australia had been “greatly offended” when New Zealand Rugby (NZR) announced mid-year it planned to organise a 2021 tournament involving its five Super Rugby teams without consulting its southern hemisphere partners.

The two southern hemisphere giants have clashed over the 2021 format for Super Rugby and the scheduling of the four-nation Rugby Championship

The two southern hemisphere giants have clashed over the 2021 format for Super Rugby and the scheduling of the four-nation Rugby Championship

The two southern hemisphere giants have clashed over the 2021 format for Super Rugby and the scheduling of the four-nation Rugby Championship

He said Australia were willing to regard that as “water under the bridge”, however, and were committed to forming a trans-Tasman competition with New Zealand.

NZR chief executive Mark Robinson dismissed McLennan’s comments as “a bit of bluster”, and said RA had invited he and NZR chairman Brett Impey to Australia during the Rugby Championship.

“Clearly (RA) have a strategy and narrative that they want to portray,” he said.

“We don’t operate like that but respect if they want to. We will carry on engaging about the future opportunities with them and will just have to largely get on with our own business and ignore some of the things that are said like that.

“We have got a game that is battling for survival at all levels.”