REUTERS: New Zealand Rugby (NZR) said on Friday its board had committed to setting up a new professional competition featuring eight to 10 teams, including a Pacific Island squad, in 2021.
NZR formed a committee in April with its five Super Rugby teams to review operating models and plot the way forward for the domestic game amid the novel coronavirus shutdown.
This year's Super Rugby competition, which also included teams from Australia, South Africa, Japan and Argentina, was suspended in March. New Zealand launched a competition for its five sides, 'Super Rugby Aotearoa', last month.
Outlining the findings of its review titled "Aratipu", the Maori word for "growth", NZR Chief Executive Mark Robinson said the board had approved recommendations for the competition.
"Coming on the back of COVID-19 and its impact on future competitions, the NZR Board has committed to establishing a new professional team competition in 2021," he said in a statement https://www.allblacks.com/news/new-competition-future-feature-of-aratipu-report.
"We've also been heartened by the success of Super Rugby Aotearoa. The focus is now on confirming licenses for New Zealand's five current Super Rugby clubs and that work is now underway."
Robinson said having a Pacific Island team in the competition was a priority.
"To have a team that would provide an additional pathway for Pasifika players to perform on the world stage would be hugely exciting," he said.
NZR would work with Rugby Australia to seek expressions of interest from its clubs and other interested parties to join the competition, Robinson added.
It would also consult with SANZAAR - the governing body of Super Rugby which includes the Australian, South African and Argentine rugby unions.
Rugby Australia said it looked forward to "working constructively" with NZR, while South Africa Rugby said in a statement https://www.springboks.rugby/en/articles/2020/07/17/SA-Rugby-on-2021-and-beyond it would examine "how the mooted new competition will fit into the existing contracted competitions".
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)