Billionaire mining magnate Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest has unveiled plans to form a breakaway rugby series with teams from the Asia-Pacific region.
Forrest confirmed he was in talks with Asian and Pacific Island rugby chiefs to form a six-team competition, with sides potentially from Singapore, Hong Kong, Samoa, Fiji, Seoul, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Sri Lanka or Shanghai, in addition to the Western Force, to form the Indo-Pacific Rugby Championship.
The league comes as Forrest looks to keep the Western Force brand alive after its controversial axing from the Super Rugby competition.
Forrest also revealed he was negotiating with the ARU to ensure players in the new series could still be selected for the Wallabies and eligible to play Super Rugby.
ARU chairman Cameron Clyne confirmed the ARU was negotiating with Forrest.
“[The] ARU is involved in collaborative discussions with Andrew Forrest and his Minderoo team and we look forward to continuing these discussions over the coming weeks,” he said.
“ARU remains committed to maintaining a strong rugby presence in Western Australia and will explore all options in this regard.”
Forrest has promised to to work in conjunction with the ARU to promote grassroots rugby in Western Australia and the booming Asia-Pacific region.
“We envision the future of rugby union as a most popular global competition in the fastest-growing consumer market in the world, where over 60 percent of the world’s people live in the same time zone,” Forrest said.
“We are now consulting with sovereign governments, international broadcasters, media organisations and other global businesses, with great interest in the Indo-Pacific, as well as Australia’s leading coaches and players, both here and overseas.”
In a statement, Forrest said it was crucial for the competition to “focus on countries that either have an established, or growing, interest in rugby union” and to “[play] matches in a friendly time zone critical for sponsors that captures most of the world’s population”.
Player contracts would also be restructured to allow players to participate in both the IPRC and Super Rugby competitions.
Forrest confirmed the new league would start next year and would be scheduled to avoid clashes with the Super Rugby competition.