Australia axes Western Force from Super Rugby

Western Force players celebrate a try during the round 17 Super Rugby match against the NSW Waratahs at nib Stadium in Perth

Force players on the attack.

Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver has blown the whistle on his own job, just hours after the ARU controversially announced it was axing the Western Force from the Super Rugby competition.

The ARU said on Friday it had "resolved to discontinue the Western Force Super Rugby licence", leaving Australia with four teams from next season.

The Force made vast improvement this year under rookie coach Dave Wessels, unearthing a host of talented players who the franchise hoped would carry them to a title within three years.

"This is a sad day for rugby, especially for Western Force fans", he said. We accept that there will be anger and resentment over this decision and we sympathise with those fans.

RugbyWA responded nearly immediately with a statement saying it would pursue "every possible means", including legal action, to ensure the Western Force remained in the competition.

Billionaire mining magnate Andrew Forrest has also backed a campaign to save the Force from a cull, telling the ARU his support for rugby is contingent upon the franchise remaining in a national competition.

The Force had been arguing an alliance agreement signed last August with the ARU guaranteed the club's survival until at least the end of the current broadcast deal in 2020.


"Furthermore, the significant unbudgeted support funding that has been provided to Super Rugby teams over the past five years has greatly affected our capacity to invest in community rugby".

The decision comes after a months-long saga in which Pulver and the ARU have ummed and ahhed over whether to cut the Force or the Melbourne Rebels to reduce the number of Super Rugby sides in Australia.

The Force were an expansion team aimed at spreading the geographic imprint of rugby to the Australia's west coast when they joined the competition in 2006.

"The future of professional Rugby in Western Australia will now be the collateral damage of the decision making of the ARU and Sanzaar to expand Super Rugby to a convoluted and complicated 18 team structure against various advice and modelling received which explained the associated risks".

The ARU has promised not to forget abandon the game in Western Australia, saying the state still held an "important" place in Australian rugby.

The ARU announced on Friday that the Force rather than the Melbourne Rebels would be cut from the downsized 2018 competition, with chief executive Bill Pulver resigning from his position.

"We're dealing with the process of cutting a Super Rugby team and that's been a harrowing process", he told a news conference.

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