Rugby Union


England coach Eddie Jones calls for Brumbies to stay, but Force and Rebels to go

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Former ACT Brumbies coach Eddie Jones has called for Super Rugby to go "back to the originals", adamant the Wallabies were at their best when there were three teams in Australia.

England mentor Jones also slammed speculation the Brumbies could be axed in a competition overhaul and said instead the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels should be cut.

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After taking an early lead due to a trick play the Brumbies surrendered the lead late in the game.

The Super Rugby rumour mill went into overdrive on Monday night when it emerged the Force were the likely team to be cut if SANZAAR reduces the number of teams from 18 to 15.

But the clouds of uncertainty are still hovering above the Brumbies, Force and Rebels as all three nervously await a final decision on the competition's future.

An Australian team will only be cut if South Africa agrees to axe two of its teams and it appears the Brumbies and Force are in the most danger because the Rebels have a private owner.

But Jones, who led the Brumbies to their first title in 2001, said it was "shortsighted" to consider cutting the Canberra franchise.


"For me, Australian rugby was at its strongest when there were three Super Rugby teams - the Brumbies, the NSW Waratahs and the [Queensland] Reds," Jones told Fairfax Media.

"There was enough opportunity for players and those three places have always been rugby cities.

"To think about cutting the Brumbies is so shortsighted. If the ARU are serious about it, they're really missing the point.

"The problem has been the two expansion teams, the Rebels and the Force.

"Unfortunately both of those teams take all of their players from Sydney, Brisbane or Canberra because they're not rugby strongholds.

"To think about axing the Brumbies ... that would be cutting off your nose to spite your face."

The Force launched a passionate defence of their future on Tuesday, saying they were pushing ahead with plans for an "Own the Force" initiative.

The ARU boss Bill Pulver issued a statement on Tuesday saying negotiations with broadcasters in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand were ongoing and that "no decision has been taken on the removal of one of Australia's Super Rugby teams."

"ARU, as a joint venture partner of SANZAAR, is working towards a final resolution in the shortest timeframe possible and will inform Rugby fans as soon as an outcome is reached," Pulver said.

Brumbies chief executive Michael Thomson did not want to buy into the speculation, saying: "There's still a lot that has to happen, our focus is just being the best we can for Canberra on and off the field."

Players are stuck in the middle of the rugby political battle, with the ARU telling clubs to delay negotiations with any non-Wallabies who are trying to secure new deals.

If an Australian team is cut, its players will be spread around to the remaining franchises.

The Brumbies recruited rejects from Brisbane and Sydney to blend with Canberra talent when the club was started in 1996.

Jones coached the Brumbies from 1998 to 2001 before becoming the Wallabies' head coach.

He led Japan to the World Cup in 2015 before winning the England job and leading them to 18 Test wins in a row to equal New Zealand's world record winning streak.

But his Super Rugby heart is still in Canberra. "As the Brumbies became more successful, we were the biggest sporting team in Canberra," he said.

"In my last season there, we were averaging [crowds of] 18,000 per home game.

"We changed the way rugby was played for a while. The Brumbies were the team that set a different style around the world, and to say you're going to cut a team that's had that much influence in rugby ... it's crazy."

Asked if Super Rugby needed to change, Jones said: "I think it's lost its way.

"It's become too diluted. The great thing about Super Rugby when it was 'Super 12' was that it was the best players against the best players and the quality was so high.

"Now because there are extra teams - Argentina, Japan, Australia has five and South Africa has six - it has diluted the standard of play.

"It has definitely affected rugby's popularity. Back then anyone could beat anyone, but now there are too many games you know the result of before the kick-off.

"The introduction of the Force and the Rebels was designed to increase the depth of the Wallabies. You'd have to say that objective has been marginal in success.

"Yes, more players have had opportunities. But I don't know whether it's discovered more Wallabies.

"I believe Australian rugby should go back to three teams and if they want to keep Perth going, then set up the next level to keep developing players."