Women's Super Rugby hinging on $465m investment, says NZ Rugby chief executive

The New Zealand Rugby boss hopes to have a women's Super Rugby competition up and running next year.

The Blues and Chiefs will play a one off women's match at Eden Park in May, and players want to have a full tournament in 2022 as they build towards the World Cup in New Zealand late next year.

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson said a Super Rugby competition is the logical next step for the women's game, but he says it hinges on whether NZR can afford it.

"We would like to have a competition like that, be it at a professional or semi-professional level, but that will be contingent on the resources we have available to us."

Robinson said the fate of women's Super Rugby could be affected by whether NZR's proposal to sell 15 percent of its commercial rights to US investment company Silver Lake, which would give NZR a cash injection of about $465 million, is accepted.

"There are significant opportunities for us to do a range of things in this space, such as women's professional rugby if we have the financial wherewithal and the model to do it. There will be restrictions if we don't have that. as soon as and as early as next year potentially. But, we're going to have to look at the reality of our financial model and how that might look in the future."

The provincial unions will vote on the deal next month and NZR also need approval from the New Zealand Rugby Players Association to get the deal across the line.

Robinson is confident the deal will be done, with an announcement expected after NZR's annual general meeting on April 29.

Robinson said the finer details of the women's Super Rugby tournament are yet to be decided, but it's likely there would be four teams; a combined South Island side and three from the North Island.

Robinson also confirmed this year's National Provincial Championship will remain in the current format, with the women's Farah Palmer Cup played in a North and South conference system, but the men's Mitre 10 Cup to stay as the Championship and Premiership division, with changes expected to the competitions in 2022.

The Waikato and Black Ferns midfielder Chelsea Alley says a women's Super Rugby competition in 2022 would help the Black Ferns prepare for the defence of their World Cup title late next year, with international rugby remaining uncertain during the Covid pandemic.

"We're so lucky in New Zealand that we do have some of the best players in the world. So, having an internal comp in the leadup to a World Cup isn't the worst thing. Playing against your own teammate sometimes that's the hardest thing to do. It's (having a women's Super Rugby comp in 2022) the best thing for us to do I think at this point."