ONE of the most controversial competitions in Australian rugby history is set to be revived next year in a massive shake-up to the calendar.
ARU chief executive Bill Pulver has revealed that they are on the verge of resuscitating the failed Australian Rugby Championship (ARC), which lasted just one season in 2007 before it was scrapped by Pulver's predecessor John O'Neill after losses of nearly $5 million.
In a major revamp, the 2014 Australian rugby schedule will run from January-December with Sevens kicking off the year, Super Rugby and a new six-week Super Rugby development comp running from February, Sydney and Brisbane club rugby then taking off, the new version of the ARC starting as the same time as the Rugby Championship from August to October, before the Wallabies embark on their end of year tour to the United Kingdom and Europe.
Likely to be called the National Rugby Championship (NRC), the revived ARC tournament will feature eight-10 teams including Perth, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Sydney and possibly Western Sydney and a Country side.
"The ARU board has signed off on it, we've just got to meet the financial hurdles, to make it a reality," Pulver said in Edinburgh.
"[Specific clubs are] not resolved yet. I'm meeting with Sydney clubs when I go back on December.
"There's quite a significant desire to make it regional teams and I see a fair bit of merit in that, but that's to be determined.
"In that case it would be very similar to the ARC, but we're talking about seeking expressions of interest so we need to see what comes back."
Pulver is said to have amassed personal wealth of millions through the public floating of his audience measurement company NetRatings before it was taken over by ACNielsen, and then oversaw the lucrative merger of voice recongnition company Appen with Butler Hill before he took over at the ARU.
He is confident that despite the current financial climate and previous struggles of the ARC, it will work this time around.
"We've done a lot of work on the financial modelling of this and yes I am very confident that it would be a different outcome to ARC," Pulver said.
"It's interesting to review ARC, I actually think that in so many ways ARC could have been a runaway success.
"As a commercial guy whose come out of business, every time you launch a new product, in its first year it loses money, in its second year it loses a little less generally, third year it loses a little less again and hopefully in a commercial environment in four years or so you start to get to break even.
"I suspect that the core concepts they had with ARC were absolutely spot on and it's quite possible we terminated that too soon.
"If we were sitting here today with the ARC in its eighth season, I can tell you that as a game for Australia we would be way ahead of where we are now. In so many ways, in terms of player development, and in terms of media assets that we could sell.
"This is a brand new competition so it gives us an opportunity to be very creative and very innovative in terms of how we run it.
"If rugby is truly going to be a national game in Australia, which we all want it to be, you've got to get more young boys and girls in Perth and Canberra and Melbourne playing our game."