Sport More foreign players can help fix Australian Super depth problems: Marinos

14:51  17 may  2021
14:51  17 may  2021 Source:   smh.com.au

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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 13:  Rugby Australia Chief Executive Andy Marinos speaks after Cadbury was announced as a major sponsor of the Wallabies and Wallaroos during a Wallabies and Wallaroos media opportunity at the Rugby Australia Building on May 13, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images) © 2021 Getty Images Rugby Australia Chief Executive Andy Marinos

Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marinos says Australia has the talent to sustain five teams but is open to more foreign players for the franchises to be competitive in Super Rugby.

All five Australian sides were beaten in the opening match of trans-Tasman Super Rugby at the weekend, and with the Rebels and NSW struggling with depth, questions have re-emerged about whether Australia has the depth to sustain five competitive teams.

Rugby Australia dropped back to four teams in 2017 by removing the Western Force but the COVID-19 pandemic saw five teams restored for Super Rugby AU and Super Rugby Trans-Tasman. The plan is for Australia to field five teams in the future Super Rugby competition.

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Speaking at the launch of the Wallabies' July Test series against France in July, the RA boss was emphatic when asked whether fielding five teams was sustainable.

"Where we are now, absolutely. It's what we've packaged up and we've committed to," Marinos said.

"I think that's part of the overall strategy certainly from our side about the regeneration of the game from the grassroots up. We've certainly got a strong youth and underbelly to Australian rugby. Our U20s and our schoolboys have performed, so there's a good nursery coming through.

"It's about the equalisation of our talent across our five franchises. Having the ability to be a bit more astute and discreet in terms of how we populate those franchises with foreign players, and probably have a bit more of an open-minded approach to that.

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"I think if we get those systems and structures right over the next couple of years - and we've been forced to through COVID - we'll be able to better resource our teams going forward."

While Marinos concedes the positivity produced by an entertaining Super Rugby AU competition has helped kickstart the rebirth of rugby in Australia, he remains a strong believer in trans-Tasman competition.

"We've got to be able to test ourselves against other opposition. We can't be introspective the whole time," he said.

"But I think what we've got to is balance what we're trying to do in terms of the rebuild and the re-establishment of the game within this market and I think we've made some significant gains this year.

"We've been able to bring through a lot of new and young players and players that wouldn't have been able to be seen had we stayed in the old system.

"For us, I think it's about assessing how we go over the next couple of weeks, see what the reaction has been not only from on-field but off the field, and then looking at how we best we can structure that trans-Tasman competition going forward in terms of getting the maximum benefit.

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"But my whole remit is to do what's best for Rugby Australia and what's going to give us the best platform to excel on the international stage as well."

Former Wallabies centre Morgan Turinui believes Australian rugby produces enough talented players but whether it retains enough talent is another matter.

"We produce enough talent for five teams. Do we retain enough talent (for five teams)? Probably not," Turinui told the Herald.

"Is five teams conducive to consistently winning trans-Tasman Super Rugby? No. The balance might be four. It's not three.

"If you want to win, it's one. It's finding the happy medium that helps grow the game and help people support the tribal team in their area.

"If you're in Perth and you have the Force, you have a team and a pathway for your kids. That's everything. That's your team. You don't care how many other teams there are. You care about your team. If you're in Melbourne, it's the same.

"RA have to make the hard decision and find what works for the balance of the game financially, for the future in terms of retention of talent. But it's not as simple as asking what's the best number."

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