Super Rugby AU quality will improve: Queensland coach

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The quality of Australia’s maligned Super Rugby AU competition can only improve as teams shake off the rust after a long lay-off, Queensland Reds coach Brad Thorn said on Thursday.

Media pundits and fans have panned the domestic tournament’s playing standards after some scrappy games through the opening two rounds.

New Zealand’s domestic “Super Rugby Aotearoa” competition, which started in early June, has drawn big crowds and garnered rave reviews by comparison.

Former All Black Thorn put Australia’s clunky play down to the three-month shutdown of rugby due to COVID-19.

“You look at the New Zealand competition – they’re really humming along now,” he told reporters.

“I imagine with our competition in the next week or two, we’ll really start to see more and more rugby played. The quality will continue to improve.

“The test was always around not having any trial games and just (going) straight into it. I’m looking forward to some really good rugby.”

Both Australia and New Zealand competitions have been put on to fill the breach following the suspension of the broader Super Rugby season in March.

With the future of Super Rugby uncertain due to the pandemic, Australia and New Zealand have proposed a tournament involving the two nations’ Super Rugby teams from 2021 but have been at loggerheads over the format.

Australia is pushing for five teams in any competition that eventuates but New Zealand media have reported that governing body New Zealand Rugby want only two or three from Australia due to concerns about the quality of the product.

Thorn, who represented Australia in rugby league, said he hoped for a broader competition potentially involving other countries’ teams.

“They’ve talked about a Japanese team, maybe a (Pacific) island team ... I think all that stuff is exciting,” he said.

“I agree with what both sides are saying. You want to have a strong competition and you want to have good rugby played.”

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Michael Perry