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Unions' Fate In Own Hands: Tew

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Steve Tew
Steve Tew

Wellington, Dec 12 NZPA - The fate of the four unions who yesterday received a stay of execution from being axed from the Air NZ Cup provincial rugby competition lies in their own hands, New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew said.

A decision last year to cull four of the 14 Air NZ Cup provinces and establish a first division featuring those teams plus Wanganui and Mid Canterbury had attracted widespread condemnation.

The four provinces facing the cut -- Northland, Counties-Manukau, Manawatu and Tasman -- had all appealed and stoutly defended their right to remain in the top flight, with some threatening legal action to protect their status.

The NZRU board announced an about-face yesterday after members met in Wellington on Thursday. The change of heart is, however, only a momentary reprieve, with a change in format assured by 2012 at the latest.

"Can the four who would have been in danger of going down survive in the long term?" Tew asked yesterday at a news conference announcing the decision."It's now entirely up to them. They've said yes, their fans want that opportunity. They've now got it and good luck to them. "

Tew said the provinces were in no doubt they could afford to play in the Air NZ Cup competition next year.

"We've had very public and very repetitive assertions and statement from a variety of people inside those provinces who've said they can. Now we look forward them enjoying their chance to prove it."

He said there had been a number of positives to come out of the process of reviewing and rescinding last year's decision, "even if at the end we're a little frustrated with the final result".

"Both Mid Canterbury and Wanganui, for example, have gone through a significant piece of work in the last few months that will hold them in much better stead as organisations, regardless of whether they get the opportunity to play in this competition, so that's great.

"And all the passionate people who've written to us over the last three or four months -- and they can be counted in their thousands -- I hope they really enjoy the competition, get out there and support their teams."

NZRU chairman Jock Hobbs said the current collective employment negotiations taking place and other factors meant the proposed competition could not go ahead in 2010.

The decision to roll the competition over for another year had relieved the time pressure, and allowed the scope to get things exactly right for 2012, with the 2011 competition taking on a "hybrid format" because of the rugby World Cup in New Zealand.


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