RUGBY UNION: Western Force chairman Tony Howarth has made an impassioned plea to SANZAAR to save the franchise from the axe if Super Rugby is trimmed from 18 teams.
News Corp reported yesterday that the Force would be the Australian team to be cut from the current format as SANZAAR seeks to reduce the competition to 15 sides.
"I suppose I struggle a little bit to see how a good strategy for the game is to shrink it. Nevertheless, that's what the ARU has to look at," Howarth said.
"That's one thing we say to the Australia Rugby Union, 'if you want to make it a national sport, look at what the west is doing'. We're actually growing Super Rugby players and we're growing Wallabies.
"On any measure, when Australian Rugby Union looks at Western Australia, they've got to say that the support's live and healthy over here."
Howarth also said the continuing attempts to make the franchise successful had been undermined by Australian rugby chiefs.
He criticised the Force's treatment, likening it to that of cross-code rivals the West Coast Eagles, who were perceivably less favoured than Victorian teams by the AFL in its early years.
"When the Force was set up, in some ways, it was set up a bit to fail," he told Perth radio station 6PR.
"The AFL at the time (of West Coast's introduction) were quite happy to see a team in Western Australia, but the last thing they wanted it to do was to beat an Victorian team," Howarth said.
"We've had the same thing in Super Rugby, even to the extent where the ability for us to get talent here in the west is severely challenged. We've been addressing that in growing our own."
The Force, ACT Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels are considered vulnerable.
SANZAAR will only proceed with the planned competition changes if South Africa agrees to cut two of its six teams, according to News Corp.
It is due to make a decision by April 6, with the Southern Kings looking vulnerable along with either the Cheetahs or Lions.
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