Forrest: IPRC won't need Rugby Australia's approval
NEWS: Billionaire Andrew Forrest is pushing ahead with plans for the Indo-Pacific Rugby Championship regardless of Rugby Australia's approval. The six-team League will go ahead one way or another in 2019.
Negotiations with Rugby Australia have been ongoing for months, with Wallabies eligibility a key negotiation point for IPRC players.
"We'll either get Rugby Australia's approval, or we won't. But either way we're going to roll, and we'll be playing internationally," Forrest said.
"This is a tournament that is waiting to happen and will be fantastic for Australia. We've had something like 250 enquiries from elite players around the world.
"We've had an endorsement from Rugby Asia. We know that World Rugby is completely on side. I think we get closer every day [with getting Rugby Australia's tick].
"I think if you have a legitimate love for the game and a legitimate interest in what’s best for the players, you’ll back the new tournament."
For all the looming financial issues Rugby Australia has, Forrest could be a saviour for the professional game in Australia.
He has shown a keen interest in grassroots development, backing it up with tangible investment in a Western Australian junior rugby program called RugbyRoos.
"Rugby starts at the grass roots, and finishes with the elite. Not the other way around," Forrest said.
"Rugby has been struggling a bit in the eastern states at a community level. The RugbyRoos is a great way to build the community spirit through rugby in the eastern states.
"RugbyRoos is a long-term vision."
All future elite rugby players contracted to play in WA will devote 350 hours of their personal time each year to community programs like RugbyRoos.
Forrest has already resurrected the Future Force Foundation, and he's committed funds to women's rugby as well.
Rugby Australia Chief Executive Raelene Castle says the possibility remains for the Western Force to return to Super Rugby in 2021 after the current broadcast deal expires. However, Forrest wants to see the Force back in action before then in his IPRC competition.