Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Australian Rugby Union side barred from recruiting Wallabies

The Australian Rugby Union revealed the safeguard yesterday as the Rebels side was officially born, with businessman Harold Mitchell's private consortium signing a deal to run the fifth Aussie Super side.

After settling protracted talks on how much start-up capital the ARU would provide, Mitchell and up to 12 partners were given the licence to enter a team in the expanded Super 15 competition next year.

Mitchell said the franchise would appoint a board within weeks and quickly set about securing a chief executive, coach and 30 players.

Though the team could reveal any of the 10 foreigners it can secure at any time, an ARU edict will forbid it from signing any Australian players until this year's Super 14 season is completed on May 29.

The "no-go zone" will prevent the Rebels making waves in the player market as New South Wales, the ACT, Queensland and Western Force are in the middle of their domestic seasons.

"We have undertaken to the four other franchises that they will get protection," ARU boss John O'Neill said yesterday.

"We will have a device that will allow Melbourne to get on with life but also avoid in the middle of a Super rugby season seeing a Waratah or a Red standing up there pulling on a Melbourne jersey."

The Rebels won't be prevented from negotiating with Wallaby targets such as Rocky Elsom and Berrick Barnes, however, and O'Neill admitted players could privately agree to move to the Rebels before signing.

Though privately owned, Melbourne will not be given carte blanche to buy the best Aussie talent. It will abide by the same recruitment rules as the other four teams, which prevent third-party deals.

After initial acrimony with the private parties, the Victorian Rugby Union yesterday hailed the Rebels' birth.

"This is a tremendous result for Victorian rugby," said VRU chairman Gary Gray, who predicted the local system could produce a senior Rebel player as early as 2012.

"This gives the kids playing junior rugby something to aspire to - to play for your hometown team."

Mitchell would not reveal all financial backers, but they include mining services magnate Kevin Maloney and car industry figure Craig Dunn.

Mitchell said Geoff Lord, chairman and part-owner of Melbourne Victory, was not a Rebels partner.

He put the value of the investment in the new club at "some millions".

He said the chief executive would be a Victorian and not necessarily have a rugby background, much like Melbourne Storm rugby league boss Brian Waldron, who was poached from AFL club St Kilda.

The ARU provided a grant of about $3 million and a loan, reflecting the "start-up nature" of the club. Six nations hospitality available in market you can buy online

Wales V Scotland Hospitality
and England V Wales Hospitality

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