More Rugby Championship matches heading to Europe

The Rugby Championship
by AFP

October's Rugby Championship match between title-holders Australia and Argentina at Twickenham could be the first of several fixtures in the southern hemipshere tournament that are played in Europe, a top administrator said Thursday.

The October 8 fixture will be the first time a Rugby Championship match has been played in London and it will also be the final game of the series that also includes world champions New Zealand and South Africa.

At last year's Rugby World Cup in England, all four SANZAAR nations (South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina) provided the four semi-finalists.

The Wallabies beat Argentina in last year's World Cup semi. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyTheir matches were well supported, with the quartet able to rely on support from expatriate communities in and around London.

And having seen the success of that tournament, SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos said in a statement Thursday that he wanted to "continue that approach".

"We saw how positive the World Cup was in the UK and we feel our game is about taking it to as many supporters as possible," said Marinos.

"It's a good opportunity for extra exposure and bringing a meaningful Rugby Championship game to London is something that will continue to promote rugby at a moment when its popularity is continuing to grow."

Born in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, the 43-year-old Marinos -- who won eight caps for Wales -- added: "The style of play in The Rugby Championship is a very exportable commodity to further increase the attractiveness of the sport.

People want to see a free-flowing style and the game is moving in that direction."

European rugby union has often been accused of being excessively dominated by forwards and set-piece play.

"There are two very different approaches to the game and certainly that was clear at the World Cup, although this summer the Northern Hemisphere teams have really fronted up and you've seen England, Ireland and Wales adapting their game too," Marinos said.

The Rugby Championship match between the Wallabies and the Pumas will be a repeat of last October's World Cup semi-final at Twickenham, when Adam Ashle-Cooper's hat-trick of tries helped Australia to a 29-15 win.

Argentina only became the 'fourth' nation in the Rugby Championship in 2012 but they have since beaten Australia (2014) and South Africa (2015).

The Wallabies will face off against Argentina in London. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyMeanwhile the creation of an Argentinian Super Rugby club franchise in the Jaguares has also strengthened the development of the Pumas' game.

"Argentina have been making one of the fastest rises in international rugby and with many of their players in Europe there's always going to be a strong affiliation for them," said Marinos. 

"Australia, New Zealand, South Africa all have huge ex-pat communities in the UK so these games will be attractive to them. 

"Australia and New Zealand have already taken international rugby abroad to the USA and to Hong Kong and people will continue to look at new markets but Europe and the UK has such a strong rugby heritage, and we at SANZAAR would like to continue that approach."