Oz backs NZ threat to boycott 2015 Rugby World Cup

Australian Rugby Union boss John O'Neill. Photo / Greg Bowker
Australian Rugby Union boss John O'Neill. Photo / Greg Bowker

Australian rugby boss John O'Neill backs a stand by his New Zealand counterpart on a possible boycott of the 2015 Rugby World Cup because of cost.

New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew says the All Blacks may skip the 2015 tournament unless the International Rugby Board changes the rules on sponsorship.

Last night Australian Rugby Union chief executive O'Neill said leading nations faced cumulative losses of almost $100 million in cup years.

"The current economic model is unsustainable and unacceptable."

The Australian union was A$16 million ($20 million) worse off because the Rugby World Cup caused "massive disruption" because of "no inbound tests from Northern Hemisphere teams and a curtailed Tri-Nations season".

Tew said the New Zealand union was set to take a $13.2 million hit from the current tournament because of regulations which did not allow teams to have any association with their sponsors during the six-week event.

The All Blacks are sponsored by Steinlager, but because the World Cup is backed by Heineken the team cannot be seen with a Steinlager logo.

Tew told the English newspaper the Guardian that this rule "cannot carry on".

"But frankly the prospects of us going to England in 2015 under the current model are very slim. We cannot sign on for an event that costs us so much money."

Keven Mealamu said it would be "devastating" if the All Blacks were unable to go to the tournament in four years.

"The country and the players would be devastated if the All Blacks weren't at the World Cup," the hooker said.

Both the NZRU and the IRB, when contacted by the Herald, were quick to point out that the issue of the IRB's sponsor rules was not new and that Tew was a member of the ruling body's executive council.

The IRB declined to comment on Tew's comments about the All Blacks being pulled from the 2015 tournament.

But it said an already planned review of the Rugby World Cup commercial model would go ahead after this year's tournament.

"The IRB is already driving forward that process and is committed to working in collaboration with member unions to ensure a model that continues to balance the strategic needs of unions with the ability to provide the IRB with the financial platform for the development of a sport that has witnessed an 18 per cent growth in participation since the last Rugby World Cup in France," it said.

Former All Black coach Laurie Mains backed Tew's stance on Radio Sport: "I think the IRB has a responsibility to listen to those major unions because they are actually what make the World Cup tick. It's not your minnows, who are getting all the money, that make it tick - it is the Big Five."

- additional reporting agencies

- NZ Herald

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