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Possible Expansion?



A SUPER 14 expansion side of Australians, Argentinians and Pacific Islanders playing out of Melbourne could be the key to tying the Pumas to the southern hemisphere's elite competitions, ARU deputy chief executive Matt Carroll says.

Carroll revealed he had met with Argentinean officials and said SANZAR partners Australia, New Zealand and South Africa were keen to find ways of "refreshing" the Super 14 and Tri Nations competitions as southern hemisphere rugby heads towards a new broadcast deal in 2010.

Also on the agenda is a marquee player system, which could allow Australian players to link with any Super 14 franchise.

As well as securing a bankrolling TV rights deal, the measures would be designed to address the worrying player drain to cashed-up European clubs.

"Unless we have strong competitions in the southern hemisphere, both in terms of quality rugby and strong financially, then we won't be able to retain our players," Carroll said.

"And I'm not talking about the Chris Lathams, I'm talking about your Berrick Barnes' and the young guys."

Retaining players is a do-or-die exercise for SANZAR because the broadcast dollars would dry up considerably if the best players quit Super rugby and also couldn't return home for the Tri Nations Test series, which is not played in a northern hemisphere international "window".

The solution, according to Carroll, is to get the Super 14 humming.

"It is making sure Super 14 is powering along, make it an attractive competition," he said.

"(If it) keeps the players, generates money, you can pay the players their salaries."

Carroll said he met officials from World Cup semi-finalists Argentina, who sit on the sidelines of both the Six Nations and Tri Nations, at the IRB conference in England earlier this month.

"Their initial solution was to play in Europe but they've been rebuffed," he said.

"Does the Tri Nations need freshening up? Yes it does. Could Argentina provide that freshness? Quite possibly yes. What have we got to do? Make sure that the Argentineans have their best players so we've got to find a solution for that."

It might not seem obvious, but that solution could be Melbourne.

"You want Argentina to come into the Tri Nations, you've got to get Argentinean players somehow, whether it's with additional teams which could be the key, into the Super 14," Carroll said.

"Then they're playing at the same time as us and their players can be released to play for Argentina when we're playing the Tri Nations.

"I don't think Australian rugby at the moment could tolerate an extra team out of our resources. Four teams seems to be where we're at at the moment.

"But that doesn't mean we can't have other teams come into the competition."

Carroll said that could mean some Australians, Argentineans and Pacific Islanders representing a new Melbourne franchise, particularly in the wake of the Australian Rugby Championship's demise and, with it, outpost team the Melbourne Rebels.

"There's all sorts of opportunities there so that's where we've really got to start to open our minds to a few possibilities," he said.

Carroll was part of ARU chief executive John O'Neill's team at Football Federation Australia and helped set up an A-League marquee player system which has snared the likes of Dwight Yorke and Juninho for Sydney FC.

"Australians could be marquee players in other Super 14 teams so you start to look at it competition wide as distinct from narrowly in your own backyard," Carroll said.

A move to 16 teams, pool matches to reduce travel and a top five or six finals system would also be considered, Carroll said.

Would be pretty good but I dont like it how other Aussies nominate for nz or sa S14 teams if that what he means? But the whole thing sounds good i guess.

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