The prospect of the best Super Rugby Pacific teams facing Toulouse and Leinster is getting closer to reality, with Highlanders general manager Roger Clark. Thing the 2024 Club World Cup project “had serious horses behind it”.
The Club World Cup would settle cross-hemispheric disputes over who has the best provincial team / club in the world, and has long been seen as one of the ways to boost the finances of under-capitalized Kiwi Super teams.
The outgoing president of European professional rugby clubs, Simon Halliday, told British newspapers overnight that an “in principle” deal had been made for the competition to go ahead, and although key details were missing. yet been settled, Clark said the New Zealand teams were enthusiastically aboard a tournament to be played in the Northern Hemisphere in its first iteration.
“New Zealand clubs have been involved in talks with this group for about a year,” Clark said Thursday. “We’re as excited as everyone about this, and they’re talking about 2024 as the start date. For me that adds a lot of excitement.
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“I think every athlete wants to compete with the best in the world.
“Everyone says how good Super Rugby clubs are, but you really only know when you’re playing the best. Obviously you have to qualify, but I think from a fan’s point of view and I know from a players and coaches point of view it would be very exciting.
Clark acknowledged that there was a long way to go before the tournament was finalized, with the ever-present challenge of aligning the rugby calendars in the south and north being an obvious challenge.
“I think they are hoping the seasons will line up in 2024. At the moment that is not the case,” Clark said.
“I think the window is June, July, but at the moment there is an international window in July. There are rumors from World Rugby that they are planning to move that July window, so if that is the case, we may have to move to one side or the other to make it happen.
“… but it is obvious that there is an opportunity at this time, end of May, June, July, that this is the period that should be played for both hemispheres.” We will have to make mutual concessions. “
The length of the new competitive and qualifying routes for Super Rugby Pacific teams also needs to be decided, while Japanese participation would also be required to be considered truly global.
Yet for all of these challenges, Clark remains optimistic it can happen. The Highlanders have some experience on the pitch, having played Racing 92 in Hong Kong after their Super Rugby success in 2015 – a game hosted by a European promoter.
Clark still has fond memories of this encounter, and with Super Rugby broadcast revenue traditionally going directly to New Zealand rugby, there is a chance for Kiwi teams to make money from a new competition that would require a separate broadcast agreement.
“This is definitely an opportunity for all of the clubs involved,” said Clark. “It’s the kind of detail [broadcast rights] that they are still working because they are far from finalizing it.
“On a commercial level, there is also an opportunity to develop your brand internationally.
“I think every time I talk to someone about this kind of concept, everyone is pretty optimistic about it.
“I think he has wheels, it’s just a matter of lining up a lot to get there. But the good thing is that these discussions are well underway and have been going on for some time, and that there are some serious horses behind it. “
Meanwhile, Clark has confirmed that the Highlanders are close to finalizing their squad for Super Rugby Pacific in 2022, with only one fullback and one striker needed.
A disrupted NPC season has made recruiting more difficult than usual, but the Highlanders are likely to block these last two players in the coming weeks.
The Super Rugby Pacific draw is also imminent and could be released in the coming days, Clark said.