Rugby AU still hoping for two Australian Bledisloe Tests

International
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Rugby Australia is still working towards staging two Bledisloe Cup matches in Australia before the Rugby Championship kicks off in November despite a recent rise in coronavirus cases on the east coast.

World Rugby recently confirmed a revised window for the Rugby Championship, running from November 7 to December 12, that would be based in New Zealand where all internal coronavirus restrictions have been lifted.

Currently, Rugby Australia is preparing for two Bledisloe matches to be staged in Australia in October, ahead of the Rugby Championship, giving teams time to quarantine as they travel to New Zealand for the longer tournament.

The involvement South Africa and Argentina is still being worked through as both countries battle the coronavirus pandemic and travel restrictions.

Rugby was given the all-clear to return in South Africa last week while many of Argentina's biggest names have defected to Europe with Super Rugby's Jaguares season being wiped out.

  STATE OF UNION, SUPER 8 TO ADD TO RUGBY CALENDAR

A second wave of coronavirus has seen Australia take a step backwards in terms of restrictions in recent weeks, though professional sport has still been going ahead mostly with crowds in attendance.

That spike in cases that has seen Queensland shut its borders to NSW, ACT and Victoria also put some doubt over a possible  trans-Tasman travel bubble, something that would help ease the staging of Test matches.

In contrast, New Zealand has recently marked 100 days without a new coronavirus case outside of hotel quarantine and full crowds have been permitted to go to matches since July.

Melbourne and Brisbane were both originally scheduled to host Bledisloe Tests this season but the former is almost certainly out of the running after going into stage four lockdown in recent weeks.

Should restrictions prevent Australia from being able to host Bledisloe Cups with big crowds, Clarke said he would be open to the possibility of shifting those to New Zealand as well, with the caveat of a revenue share.

"Ideally you would want them in Australia to reward your fans, so they could come and watch the game and certainly from a commercial point of view,we have many corporate supporters and we'd want to reward them as well," he said.

"Our number one priority is to try and get these games in Australia and we're working with various governments to see what the potential crowds might be and what limitations might be placed on match day crowds. that will have an influence on at least where one of the games might be played.

"If everything turned negative then, yes, one of the scenarios could be that we play those two Bledisloes in NZ capitalizing on the opportunities they present and that has been factored into our thinking but certainly isn't our preference."

Clarke was adamant the two matches could not be postponed beyond the current dates of October 10 and October 17, with the Rugby Championship running well into December.

"That'll be Christmas, that's the issue," he said.

"At this point in time, the TRC's scheduled to kick off on the 7th of November and not finish until possibly the 12th of December.

"There's no time at the back end of the TRC to play any more matches.

"The two Bledisloes, it's a bit like Star Wars numbering system, numbers three and four Bledisloes will be played first on the 10th and 17th of October, hopefully here in Australia and then numbers one and two will be played as part of the Rugby Championship in New Zealand later in November."