Rugby Championship calendar in COVID flux

2 months ago 11
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Stuff NZ - The location of the Rugby Championship will likely be known before the end of the day, but the All Blacks are already looking at Twickenham to host their historic 100th test against the Springboks in late September or early October, Stuff can reveal.

Australia remains the first option to host the tournament, although numerous hurdles have to be cleared before that takes place.

The All Blacks, who are set to fly out to Perth on Sunday, must have confidence that the championship is going to be held in Australia in its entirety before they leave – and that is in doubt.

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At present, the All Blacks could leave for Perth and be granted an exemption to break up their two-week quarantine period at the midpoint to play against the Wallabies on Perth on August 28, or even push the game back a week.

However, they won't leave New Zealand unless the remaining fixtures are locked in, and this is where the issues lie.

It's understood there are problems getting South Africa and Argentina into Australia under suitable conditions.

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They were initially due to fly into Covid-stricken New South Wales, and quarantine there. This would have allowed them to head to Queensland under an exemption and play tests there.

However, the worsening Covid conditions have complicated that picture, and entry into NSW is no longer guaranteed.

The alternative is flying them directly into Queensland, but that would depend on two things. First, the Queensland government would have to agree, and second, both the Springboks and Pumas would have to agree to the bubble conditions, which could be onerous.

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That's why the Europe option for the Rugby Championship is seriously being considered, with plans to hold the blockbuster All Blacks-Springboks game at Twickenham already being drawn up.

UK authorities are likely to allow a full crowd at Twickenham, and with well in excess of 1 million expat Kiwis, Australians and South Africans living in London there would be high hopes of a sellout.

The test could also be hosted in the evening – potentially after the Australia-Argentina game at the same venue – to allow Kiwi TV audiences to watch in the morning.

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The All Blacks could then send a restricted, 26-man-squad to the US for the test against the Eagles on October and return to Europe for their November test program against Wales, Italy, Ireland and France.

The situation is clearly fast-moving, but decisions will have to be made quickly.

The All Blacks need to know quickly if they are going to be on a plane for Perth in the next few days, so state government decisions in Australia, as well as the agreement of both South Africa and Argentina, will ultimately decide where the Covid-disrupted tournament ends up.

This article was originally published on stuff.co.nz and is reproduced with permission

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