MELBOURNE, Australia – Melbourne Rebels assistant coach, Morgan Turinui, has criticised the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) for affecting the mental health of his players by delaying the announcement of which team will be cut from Super Rugby this season.
SANZAAR (Super Rugby's controlling body) confirmed in March that one Australian franchise and two franchises from South Africa would be cut to streamline the current cumbersome 18-team format, for the future financial and logistical viability of the competition.
It was then left up to the ARU and their counterparts, the SA Rugby Union (SARU), to decide which teams are to be cut, preferably in consultation with all the affected franchises.
Subsequently the ARU stated that they would consult with both the Perth-based Western Force and the Melbourne Rebels before deciding which team to cut for the revised 2018 Super Rugby 15-team format.
"It's just debilitating for them. The fear in our team at the moment is that there is some element of truth to the rumour. We have players who can't renew their rental agreement on their houses, because they don't know whether they're going to be here next year," Turinui said.
"We've got guys who don't know what to do with their families, who are interstate. From a mental health perspective we have genuine issues and worries about players."
No further updates have been forthcoming from the ARU, while in SA, SARU has given no reassurances to players from the Kings or the Cheetahs. In Australia, it is the Rebels who are faring worst this season, with one victory from ten games played.
However, former Wallaby centre Turinui has expressed his frustration with the contradiction in the assurances received from the club’s private owner, Andrew Cox, who acquired a Super Rugby franchise license from the ARU several years ago – and continued speculation in the media that the Rebels are indeed the most likely of the Australian franchises to be cut.
Cox assured his players and staff that they were safe from the cut, as he held the license and that the only way the ARU could remove the Rebels was by him selling the licence back to them. He threatened to take legal action, in the event of the Rebels being cut.
Turinui’s censure extended to the Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA), who he said should be doing more to protect his players’ interests.
“I was on the board of directors at RUPA so I know exactly what their charter is – to protect the rights and the working conditions of the players and their wellbeing," he said.
“No one cares about a newsletter that RUPA sends out, no one cares about tickets to players that RUPA can provide, they’re there to look after the players. RUPA need to step up, the way the ARU have handled it is an absolute disgrace.”