Rugby Championship increasingly unlikely to proceed – report

Rugby

A four-game Bledisloe Cup series is firming as the likely scenario for Test rugby in New Zealand and Australia this year with the chances of the Rugby Championship proceeding shortening by the day, according to Newshub.

While SANZAAR remains bullish about the prospects of the tournament going ahead from Nov. 7, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the resulting lack of rugby in both South Africa and Argentina continue to be problematic.

Newshub reports that New Zealand Rugby is already well advanced with contingency planning for an extended Bledisloe Cup series, plus a further fixture against a united Pacific Island team.

The situation is in line with that first reported by ESPN back in April, an extended Bledisloe Cup series the logical option given both Australia and New Zealand will have completed their domestic competitions and then had ample time to assemble their respective Test squads by October.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster will name his first Test squad Sunday, after the North vs. South game is played out in Wellington the night before.

Super Rugby AU, meanwhile, has its final regular season round this weekend before a two-week final series, with the decider already set to be hosted by the Brumbies, no matter the results of the Round 10 games.

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie will name his first squad soon after the Super Rugby AU final.

New Zealand had been earmarked as the hub location of the Rugby Championship but a small resurgence in COVID-19 cases, there were five announced on Wednesday, has seen the Government tread cautiously and return parts of the country to Level 2 and Level 3 restrictions since the middle of last month.

Rugby Australia [RA] had signaled its interest in hosting the Rugby Championship hub from the outset of the pandemic, but it will likely have to settle for two Bledisloe Cup matches, played before reduced crowds.

RA had flagged Perth as a potential hub destination and while it remains in the hunt to host a Bledisloe Cup Test, Queensland has emerged as the favourite to host back-to-back Test matches in Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

It would be a further coup for the Sunshine State after it was Wednesday announced that Brisbane had secured the AFL Grand Final on Oct. 24. Bledisloe Cup matches have been penciled in for Oct. 11 & 18, potentially giving Queensland three straight weeks of blockbuster sporting action.

If border restrictions remain as they are on both sides of the Tasman, both the All Blacks and Wallabies would have to quarantine when entering either country. Australia would also have to quarantine in a training hub within Queensland for a fortnight if the Tests were played in the Sunshine State.

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