Western Force start Super Rugby Pacific campaign with blockbuster Australian derbies in revised draw
Western Force will open the inaugural Super Rugby Pacific competition with blockbuster local derbies as border restrictions force organisers to start with separate Australian and New Zealand conferences.
Rugby bosses were hoping the expanded competition, that includes Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika, would start in February free of travel constraints.
But the New Zealand government’s reluctance to open its border without quarantine or self-isolation means the competition will start life as two separate competitions in Australia and NZ in a revised draw.
The new schedule retains the same competition format announced in November, with a full round robin and single points table after the opening eight matches on different sides of the Tasman.
Australian and NZ sides will come together for the first time for a Super Round in Melbourne between April 22-24 with the goal to have teams from the two conferences play against each other prior to a final series in June.
The fixture rethink sees the Force kick-off their Australian home and away campaign against the Brumbies on Saturday February 19 at HBF Park.
Fijian Drua are included in the Australian conference and the Force are scheduled to play them away but it is unlikely they will travel.
They host the Blues, Crusaders and Hurricanes in the second half of the competition.
Force chief executive Tony Lewis said common sense had prevailed with the new draw.
“With nobody really knowing how governments around Australia and especially New Zealand are going to move it makes common sense to have a draw that has the least amount of crossover between New Zealand and Australia,” Lewis said.
“We think we can manage the Australian games between different states.
“It would be foolhardy to even consider travelling to Fiji or anywhere out of Australia at the moment.”
Rugby Australia Chief Executive Andy Marinos said: “We believe these changes will allow us to navigate the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, while ensuring we maintain the integrity of the draw and the format of the new Super Rugby Pacific competition.
“It’s been a challenging environment over the last two years.”
- Saturday, February 19: Brumbies, HBF Park, 7pm
- Saturday, February 26: Rebels, AAMI Park, 4.45pm
- Friday, March 4: Reds, HBF Park, 7pm
- Friday, March 11: Waratahs, HBF Park, 7pm
- Saturday, March 19: Fijian Drua, TBC, 11.35am
- Sunday, March 27: Brumbies, GIO Stadium, 11am
- Friday, April 8: Rebels, HBF Park, 5.45pm
- Saturday, April 16: Waratahs, TBC, 5.45pm
- Friday, April 22: Moana Pasifika, AAMI Park, 6.30pm
- Friday, April 29: Blues, HBF Park, 8pm
- Saturday, May 7, Crusaders, HBF Park, 5.45pm
- Friday, May 13, Highlanders, Forsyth Barr Stadium, 3.05pm
- Saturday, May 21: Chiefs, FMG Stadium, 12.35pm
- Saturday, May 28: Hurricanes, HBF Park, 8pm
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