Ex Western Force skipper Nathan Sharpe slams ARU decision to cull team

The Western Force have been dumped from the Super Rugby competition

The Western Force have been dumped from the Super Rugby competition

The Western Force are set to take the Australian Rugby Union to court after being axed from the Super Rugby competition.

The ARU said it chose to discontinue the Force's Super Rugby licence after weeks of consultation with rugby bodies and stakeholders, including government and commercial partners.

The ARU agreed to cut one of its five franchises during a meeting of Super Rugby stakeholders in April, when it was chose to reduce the competition from 18 clubs to 15 for next season. "We accept that there will be anger and resentment over this decision and we sympathize with those fans".

ARU chief executive Bill Pulver, who had already confirmed he would not seek reappointment when his contract expired next year, said he would now be leaving as soon as a replacement could be found.

"If they don't we'll allow them to have an early release".

Perth-based Western Force and the Melbourne Rebels, traditionally the weakest of the Australian teams, had both been warned they could face the axe.

The organisation said in a statement: "RugbyWA is considering all options including bringing urgent proceedings in the Supreme Court and legal action relating to the circumstances which led it to enter into the alliance agreement with the ARU".

The Rugby Union Players Association issued a swift response, declaring the ARU's decision as the abandonment of the game's "national footprint". The Force, added in 2006, were seen as vital by giving rugby a presence on Australia's west coast whereas it's traditional base has always been in the east coast states of New South Wales and Queensland.

"Whilst the board of RugbyWA is extremely disappointed with the ARU's stated position, with the support of the Rugby community and numerous WA business identities including Mr Andrew Forrest we will continue the fight to retain the Force in Western Australia", the Force said in a statement.

With Forrest throwing his weight behind the team, the battle over the future of the Force could still be dragged out in a long legal battle the cash-strapped ARU can ill afford.

The Victorian Rugby Union now owns the Rebels' Super Rugby licence after buying it from former owner Andrew Cox.

Clyne felt having four competitive teams would give Australian more bargaining power in having a say over the controversial competition format.

"'As hard as this is, this is a significant step forward in positioning us to have a better Super Rugby structure in the period going forward".

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