SYDNEY • Axed Super Rugby club Western Force have risen from the ashes with seven games announced yesterday against the likes of Fiji, Samoa and Hong Kong.
Force were culled from Super Rugby last August, after governing body Sanzaar decided to reduce the competition from 18 teams to 15 for the 2018 season.
South African sides the Cheetahs and Kings were also dumped and realigned with an expanded Pro14 in Europe, while the Force were cut after taking Rugby Australia to court.
Andrew Forrest, a billionaire backer of the club's parent body Rugby Western Australia (RugbyWA), vowed to keep the Force alive and he has announced plans for a six-team Indo Pacific Rugby Championship which is expected to be up and running next year.
In the meantime, he has organised the seven-match "World Series Rugby (WSR)", trialling what he called new initiatives designed to make the game "super spectator-and player-friendly".
No details were provided on what the initiatives are.
Force will feature 11 former players from the Perth-based outfit such as Ian Prior, Peter Grant and Marcel Brache, along with several internationals including ex-South Africa centre Jaque Fourie.
"We have serious ambitions for this great team and for rugby in our region and intend to see these ambitions through, starting today with the launch of World Series Rugby," said Forrest.
"The focus for 2018 is to reintroduce and reinforce professional rugby in Western Australia for the benefits of our grassroots community, our players and our fans.
"In 2019, the WSR will evolve into a high-calibre, international competition with the goal of making rugby the community-building sport of Asia."
The Force will host all the games in Perth. They face Fiji and Tonga in May before playing Super Rugby sides the Melbourne Rebels and eight-time champions Canterbury Crusaders during the June international break.
They also play Samoa in July and then Hong Kong and another unconfirmed opponent in August.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS