Western Force back as part of Super Rugby AU

Western Force will join the four Australian Super Rugby franchises and compete in the upcoming Super Rugby AU competition.

The Australian-based league will be confirmed in the coming weeks after SANZAAR was forced to abandon the traditional Super Rugby season, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposed competition will now feature at least five teams, with Rugby Australia aiming to stage the it from July 3 through to September 19 in a round robin format.

Force owner Andrew Forrest confirmed the Force's involvement on Wednesday, but the billionaire mining magnate also wants Rugby Australia to use the opportunity to reevaluate their longer-term competition structures.

"I want what is best for rugby in Perth and in Australia and to ensure the game flourishes," Forrest said.

"My views on the mismanagement of the game under the previous Rugby Australia administration are well known and remain steadfast. Change is imperative at the top for rugby to thrive long term.

"I am prepared to help out RA and new chair Hamish McLennan in a time of crisis, for the good of the sport.

"Rugby Australia cannot afford to miss this opportunity to restructure and reinvent every aspect of the game - its governance, cost structure, rules, competition construct, partnerships with broadcasters, commitment to grass roots and, most importantly, engagement with the fans."

Incoming Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan said he was thrilled that the Force will once again be able to battle against the nation's best rugby franchises.

"The return of the Western Force in an Australian-based competition is a great story," McLennan said.

"We are grateful for Andrew Forrest's support and understand that decisions made by Rugby Australia in 2017 were painful for sports fans in Western Australia and the Force players, and we are sorry that they haven't been able to share in the rivalry against their fellow Australian teams.

"I would love to continue to work with Andrew into the future as we use this opportunity to innovate and reinvigorate rugby right across the country."

Rugby Australia's interim CEO Rob Clarke echoed McLennan's comments, before hinting another team could also be set to join the competition in 2020.

"We are very pleased that Western Force has come on board for Super Rugby AU," Clarke said.

"We look forward to releasing the final elements of the competition, including the season draw in due course.

"We remain in dialogue with the [Japan-based] Sunwolves around their potential involvement in the competition, but we now know that we have at least five teams secured and will continue our discussions with Fox Sports and our commercial partners over the coming days."