SYDNEY – Axed Super Rugby club Western Force has risen from the ashes with seven games announced Tuesday 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.
Tycoon Andrew Forrest 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 kick off the series against Fiji on May 4 before a final game against a team to be announced on August 17. All matches will be played in Perth.
May 4 - Force v Fiji
May 13 - Force v Tonga
June 9 - Force v Melbourne Rebels
June 22 - Force v Canterbury Crusaders
July 14 - Force v Samoa
August 10 - Force v Hong Kong
August 17 - Force v TBC