Five still favoured

Australian rugby's main man believes having five Super 15 sides remains the right way forward. [more]

Five still favoured

Australian rugby’s main man believes having five Super 15 sides remains the right way forward.

Critics have suggested the relative poor performances of the nation’s teams in this year’s competition are proof that talent in Australia is being spread to thinly following the creation of the Melbourne Rebels.

But Australian Rugby Union boss John O'Neill is convinced that having franchises in Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, Perth and Melbourne is essential for the growth of the game Down Under.

''Those who argue we shouldn't have five teams are the same people who argued against the Brumbies being brought in in 1996,'' said O’Neill.

''People wrote them off 16 years ago, and they've gone on to win two Super Rugby titles.

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''In this market place, with an abundance of AFL and NRL teams, we need to grow. AFL takes long-term decisions and they stick with them. We are just two years into the Rebels existence and people are commentating that we can't cater for five teams. It takes time.''

Australia welcome the Lions in 2013 and all five franchises will be hosting Britain and Ireland’s elite at some point on their 10-match tour.

And while results haven’t been as consistent as many would like this term, O’Neill has warned people not to get carried away with the current standings in which only the Brumbies are in line to qualify for the play-offs.

He also insists that, regardless of results, simply supporting five franchises is good for the Wallabies, with the national team already seeing the benefit of more potential stars seeing Super 15 game time.

''Some of the judgment calls and pontifications about the weaker Australian conference do not stand up,'' added O’Neill.

"The people who have been arguing that the Australian conference is weak, I don't think recent results, with Australian teams beating New Zealand and South African teams, really support that notion.

''The reality is that with Super Rugby, whether it has been 12, 14 or 15 teams, in any week last can beat first.

''We're a nation that came into the SANZAR joint venture being told they could only accommodate two Australian teams. Well, the Brumbies have been our most successful team, and now with five teams we are going to grow into this. You have to create the capacity and the playing numbers will come through.

''Just look at our current crop of openside flankers…imagine if we only had two or three teams, they all wouldn't get a run. But now we see David Pocock, Liam Gill, Michael Hooper…the list goes on and on.''

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