Wallabies legend Tim Horan has challenged next-generation players to prove their are brighter days ahead for Australian rugby as the code prepares for its relaunch on Friday night.
The first game of a domestic competition will signal a changing of the guard, with the NSW Waratahs set to roll out an inexperienced side against the Queensland Reds in Brisbane.
The ACT Brumbies will mix their young stars with established players when they host the Melbourne Rebels on Saturday, while the Western Force patiently wait for their revival
It's hoped the new faces, a fresh format and law variations will spark interest in the game despite coronavirus forcing the cancellation of the traditional Super Rugby competition.
Fox Sports expert commentator and two-time World Cup-winner Horan sees the restart as an opportunity to win back support and forget about the game's off-field woes.
"I'm just looking forward to the players and the teams demonstrating to the fans that there is life in rugby in Australia," Horan said.
"Rather than talking about all the things happening off the field ... this is a chance to put a stake in the ground and say: 'this is the new era of Australian rugby'. We're three years out from the next World Cup, this is a time to start."
Rugby Australia hosted an online forum on Wednesday to promote the new season, which faces its challenges due to COVID-19 restrictions. The Brumbies will be able to have 1500 fans in the stands for their return to rugby for the first time since March 15 and many are tipping them as the competition favourites after winning five of six games before the season was stopped.
"I think, rightly so, people are saying the Brumbies are potentially the favourites," said Rebels coach Dave Wessels.
"But a year ago at the same point in the competition we were in the same boat ... we had a great start. Super Rugby is a long season and a lot can change, the margins are fine."
The challenge will be trying to keep that pace, coach Dan McKellar almost four months without a game will undoubtedly lead to rust when they face the Rebels.
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"I don't think we'll be putting to put too much pressure on ourselves in terms of trying to mirror what we did on March 15 against the Waratahs," McKellar said.
"We just have to make sure we get our preparation right, and if we know if we get that, being a young group, we'll perform off the back of it."
The 25th year of professional rugby has been shrouded in drama. Chief executive Raelene Castle quit amid pressure on her role, players were forced to take pay cuts and there's no broadcast deal for 2021 or beyond.
But Horan says there are glimmers of hope. Brumbies playmaker Noah Lolesio. Queensland back-rower Harry Wilson. Waratahs winger Mark Nawaqanitawase. "These first two or three rounds, the teams and players can demonstrate that this is a new start. I think that's important," Horan said.
"Everyone should have an attacking mind set. The ball will in play for longer ... the game is quick when the ball is in play, it's just about reducing the stoppages. That's what we want.
"Australia is the second rugby competition in the world to restart, there are a lot of eyes on this.
"We can demonstrate we are serious, that rugby is attractive for people to watch. Most players are playing for their livelihood ... there's no guarantees for next year."
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Friday: Queensland Reds v NSW Waratahs at Brisbane, 7.05pm
Saturday: ACT Brumbies v Melbourne Rebels at Canberra, 7.15pm. Both games live on Fox Sports