The ACT Brumbies will set their sights on a trans-Tasman crown as Australia's Super Rugby champions prepare for a revamped domestic competition including New Zealand rivals.
It is understood Rugby Australia bosses have struck a deal with their New Zealand counterparts which will set clubs up for crossover matches in the 2021 Super Rugby season.
Australia's five clubs will launch their Super Rugby AU campaign on the weekend of February 19-20, with a crossover element to come against Super Rugby Aotearoa teams later in the season.
The new format is seen as the first step towards a fully-fledged trans-Tasman competition in 2022, with clubs from both nations eyeing more crossover matches.
Teams from the Pasifika and Fiji have been touted as potential options to join the competition in 2022, after South African clubs turned their back on Super Rugby in favour of European domestic football.
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The return of trans-Tasman football is another boost for the code in the wake of Rugby Australia's three-year, $100 million broadcast deal with Nine Entertainment.
Saturday night games during the regular season and all finals will be broadcast live on Nine's free-to-air network, with the remainder of the Super Rugby AU and Aotearoa competitions to be live and ad-free on new streaming platform Stan Sport.
"The more exposure the sport can get, the better for growing our participation base," Brumbies chief executive Phil Thomson said.
"Having that free-to-air content like other major codes do, it's just a real positive and I can only see it benefiting the code in the long-term."
Brumbies players outside the Wallabies squad will return to club headquarters on Monday for the start of pre-season training on the road to round one.
Twenty-eight members of the Brumbies' Super Rugby AU-winning squad will return for next season to mark the club's highest player retention rate in a decade.
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar will elevate five academy products into the top squad, with three new faces bound for Canberra to fill out the roster.
McKellar lauded the Super Rugby AU competition "a real positive" for the code after the coronavirus pandemic brought the globetrotting Super Rugby format to a grinding halt in March.
The Brumbies were then pitted into a five-team domestic competition which saw the Western Force return to the Super Rugby fold years after a messy exit.
McKellar's side would go on to claim the championship in a thrilling final at Canberra Stadium against the Queensland Reds, while the Canterbury Crusaders clinched the Aotearoa title.
The return of trans-Tasman rugby could set up a showdown between the Brumbies and Crusaders in what will likely be billed as a clash of the champions.