Not since the 2003 World Cup has Queensland been handed a crowded platter of Test rugby that oozes such mouth-watering variety and excitement.
Call it The Rugby Championship but enjoy it like it’s a mini-World Cup.
Eight Tests as four double-headers at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium, Townsville’s Queensland Country Bank Stadium and the Gold Coast’s Cbus Super Stadium. There's not been a month-long feast like it since the 2003 World Cup offered 12 games in Brisbane and Townsville.
Queensland fans will lap up this latest curveball on scheduling and venues forced by COVID-19 restrictions.
In essence, every Kiwi on the Gold Coast has already marked September 12 and October 2 on their calendars as the days they invade Cbus Super Stadium to watch their beloved All Blacks play.
There’ll be as many black jumpers as gold ones in the stands on those two nights for two big double-headers.
The All Blacks just don’t play in 27,000-seat regional stadiums anymore but, hey, the sports world is a different place these days too.
All Blacks have dropped by Gold Coast beaches in flip-flops on a day off from Test duty in Brisbane in recent decades.
Actually playing on the coast? That hasn’t happened since Bernie Fraser scored four tries for the 1984 All Blacks in an 88-0 thrashing of Queensland Country at Carrara Stadium. The late Jock Hobbs and his team pulled around 8000 fans for that game in perfect sunshine.
The All Blacks will play Argentina (September 12) and South Africa (October 2) on the Gold Coast. On the same bill, the Wallabies will face South Africa and Argentina respectively.
The 100th Test between the All Blacks and Springboks was to have been a grand spectacle in Dunedin on September 25. Not once in 100 years would Townsville have even been connected to it but the state’s north will now host the historic occasion at its new 25,000-seat stadium.
It is still a “home game” for New Zealand. The best kick-off time, perhaps the late slot of the double-header, to present a lunchtime Test on South African TV is one of the issues still to finesse.
As ever, this new template to complete The Rugby Championship has come in a rush of negotiations between SANZAAR, the Queensland Government and broadcast partners.
“We have a fantastic tournament ahead, a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marinos said of the coup for Queensland rugby fans.
“Whilst the Tests are all being played as double-headers, there are home games for different countries so we will have discussions about preferred kick-off times for their markets."
Playing the tournament in Europe or South Africa was considered but this outcome is the “preferred position” of the chief executives from all four nations, Marinos said.
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The possibility of playing a host of TRC fixtures at Twickenham in London had positives but the negative of being so geographically removed was hard to rationalise.
“The overseas market presented a really good outcome on paper with an improved financial position but the ability to sell four weekends there had an inherent risk,” Marinos said.
Marinos admitted profits for TRC would take “a bit of a hit” with increased costs for quarantine periods and not playing stand-alone Tests.
2021 RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP FIXTURES AND MATCH SCHEDULE
Sat 14 August: New Zealand 57 def Australia 22 at Eden Park, Auckland
Sat 14 August: South Africa 32 def Argentina 12 at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Sat 21 August: Argentina 10 def by South Africa 29 at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Date TBC: Australia v New Zealand - Optus Stadium, Perth
Sun 12 September: New Zealand v Argentina at Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
Sun 12 September: South Africa v Australia at Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
Round Four Sat 18 September: Argentina v New Zealand at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Sat 18 September: Australia v South Africa at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Sat 25 September: Australia v Argentina at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
Sat 25 September: New Zealand v South Africa at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
Sat 2 October: Argentina v Australia at Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
Sat 2 October: South Africa v New Zealand at Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast