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New chief backs Wallabies return for loyal Canberrans

Date

Chris Dutton

The ACT is a major player in Bill Pulver's rugby plans, writes CHRIS DUTTON

Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver.

Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver. Photo: Getty Images

CANBERRA is back on the radar to host Test rugby and new ARU chief executive Bill Pulver wants to reward the capital for its ''loyalty'' to the sport.

And while Pulver has backed Robbie Deans in asking Super Rugby teams to rest their Wallabies to prepare for the British and Irish Lions tour, he conceded he would need to be ''flexible'' if the ACT Brumbies' finals chances are hanging in the balance.

Pulver was on a fact-finding mission in Canberra this week and met with Brumbies management, coaching staff and players as he begins his tenure in Australian rugby's top job.

One of his highest priorities is to re-establish a third-tier competition and he wants a Canberra team involved to ensure the Brumbies have depth for the future.

After less than a week in the job, Pulver spoke to The Sunday Canberra Times about his plans to increase rugby's popularity and juggle the need to perform in Super Rugby and in the Test arena.

Canberra's Test hopes

Canberra Stadium will host the British and Irish Lions when they play the Brumbies in June.

But the capital hasn't been on the Wallabies Test schedule since they trounced Italy and Fiji in 2009 and 2010 respectively.

Canberra was the only Super Rugby playing area which did not have a chance to see international rugby last year.

Instead of coming to the capital, the ARU held its Test between the Wallabies and Scotland in Newcastle.

Test matches don't have a cheap price tag, but Pulver wants to see international rugby return to Canberra Stadium.

''I think there is a chance it can be a Test venue, we want to do everything we can to reward those wonderfully loyal rugby communities and Canberra is absolutely one of those,'' Pulver said.

''I don't know precisely which games we would consider playing down here.

''But we recognise Canberra as a great rugby community … I want to make sure Canberra is rewarded for the loyalty surrounding the rugby program.''

Resting the Wallabies

Pulver has already declared his intention to put the Wallabies first when it comes to preparing for the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia.

Deans is trying to plan a three-week camp before the series begins in June.

The Brumbies play the Melbourne Rebels on June 7 in their second last game of the season. The clash is 15 days before the first Wallabies-Lions Test. It could prove crucial to the Brumbies' hopes of making the finals for the first time since 2004.

Brumbies coach Jake White is determined to reach the play-offs this year and he wants his best players available to ensure they don't stumble again.

''That call [on whether Super Rugby players are available] will be made by me,'' Pulver said.

''We need the Wallabies to win those games against the Lions and need them performing at their absolute best.

''In terms of player availability for the Wallabies, it's an easy decision [to support Deans] in my mind.

''I'm pretty confident you'll see me be very supportive of my coach. Making the finals for Super Rugby teams is a big deal.

''If we get to the point where that game will be the difference between the Brumbies getting to the finals or not, we'll open up a dialogue. Clearly it has to be flexible.''

Third-tier in Canberra

Australian rugby lacks a quality feeder competition to get players ready for the jump into Super Rugby.

The Australian Rugby Championship was abolished after just one year and the ARU lost almost $5 million on the competition.

The Canberra Vikings were part of the ARC and Pulver is keen to have another team from the capital involved as he attempts to establish a viable third-tier option. White has started a mini Brumbies academy with the best players in Canberra's first-grade competition training and playing together regularly.

He has also tried to boost the premier grade by assigning Brumbies-contracted players to each local club.

But there is still a giant leap from amateur rugby to the professional arena.

''It's important to develop a third tier to develop the right pathway because right now the step from club rugby to Super Rugby is too big,'' Pulver said.

''I'll be working very hard to find a financial model that makes a third-tier competition work and in my thinking Canberra has a very important role to play.

''You need a link to the Super Rugby teams and I would expect Canberra to be a centre for a third-tier opportunity. The idea is to have it up and running next year, but I don't know if that's achievable yet.''

The ARU contract system

White wants to put long-term faith in his players to help him rebuild the franchise and claim a Super Rugby title.

However, some players are reluctant to commit to extended deals because of the separate Super Rugby and ARU contracting systems.

If a player commits to Super Rugby, they fear their ability to earn a big ARU contract will be affected.

White is in negotiations with the bulk of his squad, but Pulver was reluctant to commit to any changes to the contracting system.

''It's an interesting one, the player contracting system will be reviewed and that's an ongoing process,'' Pulver said.

Challenges for Brumbies

The Brumbies have recorded financial losses in the past two years, but are predicting a $1.1 million turnaround this year. They are preparing to move later this year to a new $15 million facility at the University of Canberra which will be jointly funded by the Brumbies, the ACT government and the university.

''I think this franchise has done very well,'' Pulver said of the Brumbies. ''I feel if they have a good couple of seasons, the fans will come back and everything will move in the right direction.

''The ARU will work incredible closely with the Brumbies, they're an important part of Australian rugby and I've got a lot of confidence in their ability to manage their franchise very well. That includes helping them build an even more financially stable model.''

Rugby Internationals 2014

Round 1
Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
CRU 10 vs REB 20 Report Stats
BRU 47 vs RED 3 Stats
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
LIO 8 vs HUR 22 Stats
BLU 18 vs CHF 23 Report Stats
Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
SHA 29 vs CHT 35 Stats
BUL 17 vs STO 29 Stats
WAR 13 vs FOR 25 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHF 19 vs BRU 17 Stats
REB 28 vs WAR 38 Stats
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
BUL 13 vs HUR 17 Stats
HIG 20 vs CRU 26 Stats
RED 18 vs FOR 6 Stats
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
STO 27 vs BLU 16 Stats
SHA 29 vs LIO 12 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
HIG 20 vs RED 13 Stats
FOR 13 vs HUR 42 Stats
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHT 25 vs BLU 24 Stats
CHF vs CRU 17:35WS
REB vs BRU 19:40AAMI
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL vs SHA 02:05Loftus Versfeld
LIO vs STO 04:10Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs HIG 17:35WS
BRU vs FOR 19:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
BLU vs LIO 17:35QBE Stadium
RED vs WAR 19:40SS
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHT vs BUL 02:05FSS
STO vs SHA 04:10DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs BLU 17:35FMG Stadium
FOR vs REB 22:00nib Stadium
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU vs LIO 14:30AMI
HIG vs WAR 17:35FBS
RED vs BRU 19:40SS
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
STO vs CHF 00:00DHL Newlands
CHT vs SHA 02:05FSS
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
HIG vs HUR 17:35FBS
REB vs LIO 19:40AAMI
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU vs CHT 17:35AMI
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL vs FOR 02:05Loftus Versfeld
SHA vs CHF 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
WAR vs BRU 16:05AS
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs REB 17:35WS
RED vs LIO 20:00SS
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs CHT 14:30WS
HIG vs STO 17:35FBS
WAR vs BLU 19:40AS
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
SHA vs FOR 02:05Growthpoint Kings Park
BUL vs CRU 04:10Loftus Versfeld
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs STO 18:35WS
REB vs RED 20:40AAMI
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs BLU 18:35WS
BRU vs CHT 20:40GIO Stadium
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
SHA vs CRU 01:00Growthpoint Kings Park
LIO vs BUL 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BLU vs BRU 18:35EP
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs HIG 18:35AMI
WAR vs STO 20:40AS
FOR vs CHT 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
BUL vs RED 00:00Loftus Versfeld
LIO vs SHA 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs CHF 18:35AMI
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
HUR vs WAR 15:30WS
HIG vs BLU 18:35FBS
BRU vs REB 20:40GIO Stadium
FOR vs STO 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
SHA vs BUL 02:05Growthpoint Kings Park
CHT vs RED 04:10FSS
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CHF vs FOR 18:35WS
BRU vs HIG 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs BLU 18:35AMI
WAR vs REB 20:40ANZ
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO vs CHT 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
STO vs BUL 04:10DHL Newlands
RED vs HUR 17:05SS
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
HIG vs SHA 18:35FBS
BRU vs WAR 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs FOR 16:30EP
HUR vs CRU 18:35WS
REB vs CHF 20:40AAMI
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT vs STO 02:05FSS
BUL vs LIO 04:10Loftus Versfeld
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs RED 18:35AMI
REB vs BLU 20:40AAMI
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR vs SHA 18:35WS
FOR vs WAR 20:40nib Stadium
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO vs HIG 00:00Emirates Airlines Park
STO vs BRU 02:05DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs BUL 18:35EP
RED vs REB 20:40SS
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR vs CHF 18:35WS
WAR vs SHA 20:40AS
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO vs BRU 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
CHT vs HIG 04:10FSS
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
CHF vs BUL 18:35Rotorua International Stadium
RED vs SHA 20:40SS
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HUR 18:35Emirates Airlines Park
WAR vs CRU 20:40ANZ
FOR vs HIG 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT vs LIO 02:05FSS
STO vs REB 04:10DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs HUR 18:35Trafalgar Park
BRU vs BUL 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
SHA vs REB 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
HIG vs CHF 18:35Rugby Park
FOR vs RED 20:40nib Stadium
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
STO vs CHT 02:05DHL Newlands
LIO vs WAR 04:10Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
HUR vs HIG 18:35McLean Park
FOR vs BRU 22:00nib Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
REB vs BUL 16:30AAMI
BLU vs CRU 18:35EP
RED vs CHF 20:40SS
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
CHT vs WAR 00:00FSS
STO vs LIO 02:05DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HIG 18:35EP
REB vs FOR 20:40AAMI
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
BRU vs CRU 16:30GIO Stadium
CHF vs HUR 18:35Yarrow Stadium
WAR vs RED 20:40AS
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
BUL vs CHT 02:05Loftus Versfeld
SHA vs STO 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
View All Fixtures
Rugby Internationals 2014
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Brumbies 2 1 1 0 42 6
Cheetahs 2 2 0 0 7 9
Hurricanes 3 3 0 0 47 13
Chiefs 2 2 0 0 7 8
Rebels 2 1 1 0 0 5
Stormers 2 2 0 0 23 8
Highlanders 2 1 1 0 1 5
Sharks 2 1 1 0 11 6
View all
 
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