Kiwi coach Rob Penney has delivered a stark warning to New Zealand Rugby, claiming they could be in for trouble if they don't include Australia in their future plans.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported just two Australian Super Rugby teams were considered by half of the NZ Rugby board in a proposed eight-team competition, should the current tournament be replaced, claiming that the board was split over whether to prefer the eight-team competition, or a ten-team competition with five Australian and five Kiwi teams.
NZR CEO Mark Robinson rubbished those reports of a split yesterday.
"There's absolutely no division on our board whatsoever - it's absolute nonsense to suggest so," Robinson said.
"The [Aratipu] report doesn't actually land with the board until some time next week. It's in consultation at the moment with different stakeholders.
"It's important to note that nothing has been decided. We've been working with various stakeholders since the end of last week getting feedback on where the report is starting to move to.
"There's a whole range of options being considered."
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Rugby Australia are hoping to bring in four or five teams for a potential New Zealand-Australia competition, once the current Super Rugby broadcast deal ends on December 31.
However, Penney, who won four provincial titles in six years with Canterbury and currently coaches the Waratahs, has criticised attitudes towards RA.
Penney told the Sydney Morning Herald if NZR wants to 'isolate' themselves going forward, it is "at their own peril".
"We'll have a great competition here in Australia. As we've talked about, there is a great depth of youth coming through, it's a very exciting period of time for Australian rugby. I certainly really believe that," Penney said.
RA are reportedly considering establishing their own six- or eight-team competition, bringing in foreign players to strengthen their player base.
Like New Zealand, Australia currently has their own makeshift domestic competition featuring their four Super Rugby franchises, as well as the resurrected Western Force.
"If New Zealand don't get positive around the relationship they have with Australia that is their loss," said Penney.
"They probably see themselves in a powerful bubble, which they have done for a number of years. So be it. We'll create one here and then they'll come knocking I'm sure."
The Covid-19 pandemic and its ongoing impacts continue to cloud the future of the sport, meaning temporary competitions may exist for longer.
Earlier this week details of the NZR Super Rugby Aratipu review were leaked, with strong suggestions the competition in its current form is set to be scrapped.
The leak suggested Sanzaar could be disbanded, though Robinson also tempered those thoughts.
"From our point of view Sanzaar remains a critical strategic partner," he said.
"Covid has had a massive impact on rugby and there are ongoing discussions with Sanzaar about what that might look like in the future.
"But we're committed to Sanzaar and as recently as Tuesday we were reconfirming our commitment to that partnership."