News from the aftermath of the IRB conference on the ELVs, held at the Lensbury Club in South West London where it is reported that Australian Rugby’s CEO John O’Neill is threatening the biggest schism in rugby history since the formation of the Northern Union in 1895.
O’Neill, a fanatical supporter of the ELVs, has apparently reacted badly to the news that the maul is to be reinstated and that his beloved sanctions law is to be parked.
“He was expecting the usual battle with the Luddites in the Northern Hemisphere,” said an Australian rugby insider. “But when the South Africans started to turn against him John really began to lose it.”
It is understood that, rather than seek compromise, O’Neill demanded further ‘improvements’ to the game in an effort to make it a more TV-friendly spectacle including the introduction of four periods of play (or “quarters”), allowing the ball to be passed forward, full body armour for the players, rolling substitutions, specialist kickers and spectacular half-time entertainment.
“The rest of the world don’t appreciate the pressure John’s under from Rugby League and Aussie Rules,” the ARU insider said. “He needs to deliver something unique for our TV audience.”
When it became clear, however, that even the New Zealand Rugby Union would not support these new proposals, O’Neill is said to have stormed out of the summit and it later emerged that the ARU have been in secret discussions for months with the NFL to establish franchises in ACT, New South Wales and Queensland – franchises that would swallow up the Brumbies, Waratahs and Reds organisations. The new franchises would compete against the likes of the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers in the NFL next season.
“It makes sense financially,” confirmed the ARU insider. “The TV revenue alone would be enormous and will give us the fiscal muscle to compete with the other sports in this country. We might even consider including the NRL in future discussions.”
When asked about the fate of the Western Force the ARU insider is reported to have replied:
“Who gives a f**k about those drongos.”
The conference’s recommendations will be voted on by the IRB next month.