The exit of the Melbourne Rebels from Super Rugby is expected to spark a change in the finals format with two alternatives being considered.

The current format – where eight of 12 teams advance to the playoffs – already stretches credibility. To have only three teams not progress would be a step too far.

The New Zealand Herald reports that the Super Rugby Pacific Commission met last week with the post-Rebels competition structure dominating discussion.

The idea of adding a 12th team to the competition for next season was discussed but the paper said it was understood the competition will go ahead with 11 teams, meaning a bye every week.

The competition is expected to move from 15 to 16 weeks – starting a week earlier.

The New Zealand Herald reported that Super Rugby Pacific Commission was in favour of a six-team finals series that would reward the top two finishers with the first week of the finals off.

The remaining four teams would then engage in two knockout matches – third vs sixth, fourth vs fifth – with the winners earning the right to face the top seeds in the semifinals.

The alternative proposal for a seven team finals would borrow from the NFL system of the top placed team getting a week off while the next six play off, leaving a four-team semifinal. That would add an extra three games to the season over the other option.

The Herald reports that the Commission is keen to revert to 12 teams in 2026 with an established team from Japan as the preference.

Gatland names inexperienced team for Down Under tour

Warren Gatland has defended the decision to leave four key Wales players at home this summer.

Hooker Ryan Elias, lock Will Rowlands, wing Josh Adams and flanker Alex Mann will not be involved in matches against Australia and Queensland next month.

Gatland has also opted for just one specialised No.10 in the squad – Sam Costelow.

Costelow, 23, was criticised for his Six Nations performances but has been given the Gatland seal of approval to carry the team to the next World Cup.

Gatland was blunt when assessing the make up of his squad which is 36 but will be trimmed to 34 to travel to Australia after a Test against South Africa first up.

“There are some young players in here that we’re going to give some time to and there’s probably a few players who were selected who need a kick up the arse in terms of some of their performances and some of their testing results that weren’t good enough or what we expect from a national perspective,” said Gatland.

Warren Gatland, the Lions head coach looks on

Warren Gatland. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

“We are where we are at the moment, but I do see light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve just got to make sure that we work incredibly hard to improve performances and results.

“The public want to see improvement – they want to see a group of players giving it 100% and wearing their jersey with pride. I can’t question how the players tried during the Six Nations.

“There’s no doubt that it was there, we just weren’t accurate enough, and that was probably down to some lack of experience within the group. We’ve got to build on that.”

Among four uncapped players in the squad, Gatland has picked 20-year-old dual-qualified Gloucester wing Josh Hathaway.

Hathaway has played for both Wales and England at U20 level.

“We want to make sure we qualify Josh for Wales because he’s a young player with a lot of potential. We think there is a lot of improvement in his game, whether it is wing or full-back,” added Gatland.

“He has done some really impressive things for Gloucester on attack this year, and we want to bring him into the squad and see what we can do with him.”

Ellis Bevan, Keelan Giles and Jacob Beetham, who was being chased by Scotland, are the other uncapped players.


Forwards: Corey Domachowski (Cardiff Rugby), Kemsley Mathias (Scarlets), Gareth Thomas (Ospreys), Elliot Dee (Dragons), Dewi Lake (Ospreys), Evan Lloyd (Cardiff Rugby), Sam Parry (Ospreys), Keiron Assiratti (Cardiff Rugby), Archie Griffin (Bath Rugby), Dillon Lewis (Harlequins), Harri O’Connor (Scarlets), Henry Thomas (Castres Olympique), Ben Carter (Dragons), Cory Hill (Secom Rugguts), Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs),
Matthew Screech (Dragons), Christ Tshiunza (Exeter Chiefs), Mackenzie Martin (Cardiff Rugby), Jac Morgan (Ospreys), Taine Plumtree (Scarlets), Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers), Aaron Wainwright (Dragons)

Backs: Ellis Bevan (Cardiff Rugby), Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Kieran Hardy (Scarlets), Sam Costelow (Scarlets), Mason Grady (Cardiff Rugby), Ben Thomas (Cardiff Rugby), Nick Tompkins (Saracens), Owen Watkin (Ospreys), Rio Dyer (Dragons), Keelan Giles (Ospreys), Josh Hathaway (Gloucester Rugby), Liam Williams (Kubota Spears), Jacob Beetham (Cardiff Rugby), Cameron Winnett (Cardiff Rugby)

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