UPDATE: SANZAAR favours NZ as Rugby Championship host, Australia could host Bledisloe Tests

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

This year's Rugby Championship will likely be held entirely in New Zealand as the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc around the world.

There had been discussions about Australia potentially hosting part or all of the tournament but with New Zealand's relatively low coronavirus rates and the country's complete easing of restrictions, it appears to be the superior option.

Australia is believed to still be keen to host some Bledisloe Tests outside of the four-nation Rugby Championship, with the possibility that there would otherwise be no home Tests on the horizon.

Rugby AU CEO Rob Clarke has spoken previously about the possibility of having four Bledisloe Cup Tests this year, with two on each side of the ditch, meaning that two of those would fall outside a regular Rugby Championship.

New Zealand Rugby CEO Mark Robinson said that still needed to be investigated in relation to coronavirus restrictions.

"We're going to have to try to understand, if we do play in Australia, what that means in terms of getting back to NZ with quarantine and then go into Rugby Championship," be said.

"If that happens, what is the timing of all that? And if it can be done. They are still things that it's very early days with."

SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos confirmed in a statement on Thursday morning that the four-nation tournament would be ideally held in New Zealand.

"Having successfully restarted Super Rugby this year in Australia and New Zealand our focus is now on The Rugby Championship (TRC) that is set to be played in one central location," he said.

"We have determined that New Zealand is currently the favoured option given the COVID stability within the region.

"Critical to this, however, is alignment with the New Zealand Government around its requirements for this to take place.

"SANZAAR is well advanced in option planning with New Zealand Rugby, which in turn, is now seeking New Zealand Government approval. It is hoped that details on the TRC will be announced in the near future.

Marinos was also adamant that there was no plans to dismantle SANZAAR, despite consistent reports that its member unions are looking at alternative competitions to Super Rugby.

Australia and New Zealand have openly discussed walking away from Super Rugby, while South Africa's sides have also been linked with moves to European competitions.

SANZAAR could still exist without Super Rugby, simply remaining as the administrator of the Rugby Championship.

"The SANZAAR joint venture is not being dismantled," Marinos said.

"The member unions remain committed to the long-term future as a joint venture.

"We all recognise the current challenges we face in trying to settle on any potential Super Rugby competition structures moving forward under the pandemic environment, however the restructuring of Super Rugby through reformatted competitions does not mean the dismantling of SANZAAR.

"There is a clear understanding that the value of the SANZAAR alliance and the pathway of Super Rugby to international rugby remains critical to the long-term success, development and competitiveness of the respective National Teams.

"Our record in cross-hemisphere matches and World Cup tournaments are evidence of this."

Currently, Argentina is the only SANZAAR nation with zero plans for a competitive return in the short-term.

Australia and New Zealand have begun their tournaments in the past five weeks while South Africa is planning on returning to action next month.

"Unfortunately, the pandemic has been particularly tough for our partners in Argentina as the size and length of the ‘lockdown’ has meant they are not able to play in any further revised Super Rugby domestic competition this year, Marinos said.

"That said SANZAAR is continuing to work with the Argentina Rugby Union (UAR) in looking for solutions to give their players some meaningful match preparation as we look ahead to the rest of 2020 with The Rugby Championship.

"SANZAAR is also assisting South Africa Rugby as it plans a return to play strategy in the weeks ahead.”