The West

ARU backs the Force
Russel Perry and Bill Pulver. Pic: Ian Munro

New Australian Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver has allayed fears that the future of the Western Force is under threat after under- performing since formation.

Pulver also said the re-establishment of a senior academy in Perth and a third-tier competition sitting between club and Super Rugby was at the top of his agenda.

"No chance in the world that there will not be a Western Force," he said.

"We are 150 per cent committed to the franchises that we have. The future development of rugby, unquestionably in my mind, will involve the Perth team.

"The five franchises are non- negotiable. I don't think I can make that any clearer. It is crystal clear in my mind there will always be five franchises.

"I'm hoping it's going to be a great year for the Force. There is a buzz about the team.

"It is always interesting the way great teams are formed. Team is a really important word.

"It's not a bunch of superstars and there are so many examples of how, with the right coach and the right team, you can do incredible things."

Pulver was in Perth for the first time since assuming the chief executive role earlier this month.

He said the decision by his predecessor John O'Neill to scrap individual Super club academies for centralised groups in Sydney and Brisbane was the hottest issue he had dealt with during a visit to the five franchises.

"I've had enormous feedback on it. I can tell you quite confidently that the academy issue and third-tier competition will be right at the top of my list to discuss with the (ARU) board on Monday," he said.

"Last year we had five franchises in Australia that finished sixth, seventh, 11th, 12th and 14th, and frankly that's not good enough.

"I want Super teams to be phenomenally successful enterprises. New Zealand and South Africa have third-tier competitions that develop players and have them battle ready to play Super Rugby.

"I believe that is a missing link in our pathway. To jump from club rugby to Super 15 is a bridge too far.

"Even in Sydney and Brisbane the difference from club rugby to Super rugby is a massive contrast."

Pulver believed the third-tier competition could be "owned" and played out between Super franchise A sides.

"One of the main things I'm concerned about is helping our Super franchises be more competitive, but you need a financial model that facilitates that third tier with the least pain," he said.

"One of the realities in Australian rugby is that we are not flush with funds. I want to make an affordable and constructive step into a third-tier competition."

Pulver said the Force facilities were the best of all Australia's franchises. "The RugbyWA facility is mind-blowing. This is the best rugby facility I've seen in the country," he said.

The West Australian

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