Rugby Championship to be played in Queensland after Covid-19 disruptions
Australia’s Queensland state will host eight Rugby Championship matches in a rejigged schedule following new Covid-19 restrictions across the country and in New Zealand.
Organisers had weighed whether to move games to South Africa or the UK amid lockdowns and tightening travel curbs in Australia and New Zealand.
But after securing approvals from Queensland officials, the partner rugby unions in governing body SANZAAR agreed unanimously to play in the largely coronavirus-free state.
“Everyone is on the same page, thankfully, and aligned to making sure this Rugby Championship is a success,” said Rugby Australia boss Andy Marinos.
The agreement comes after friction between Australia and New Zealand in recent days following New Zealand Rugby’s decision to pull out of the August 28 Test against Australia in Perth over concerns about the schedule.
Rugby Australia hopes the Perth match will go ahead on September 4 but is waiting for approvals from authorities in Western Australia, which has effectively shut its border to arrivals from New Zealand.
“I’m hopeful we can get confirmation in the next 24-48 hours,” said Marinos on Tuesday.
The Gold Coast will host the third round of the Rugby Championship in a September 12 double-header and also the sixth and final round on October 2.
Brisbane stages round four at Suncorp Stadium on September 18 with Townsville holding round five on September 25.
The All Blacks play Argentina, with Australia facing South Africa in the first double-header on the Gold Coast.
The teams will undertake a two-week quarantine at a resort in southeast Queensland before playing under strict biosecurity protocols. South Africa and Argentina are due to arrive in Queensland and start quarantine on Friday.
Organisers have had to rejig the schedule several times due to the shifting Covid landscape, and the latest changes mean increased costs and a revenue hit.
“There’s without a doubt an impact because we’ve lost a huge opportunity in terms of the budgets and the P and L’s (profit and loss) presented for some of the games that would have taken place in New Zealand,” said Marinos.
“Our costs have increased as we have expected with the quarantine and the additional requirements around that.”
South Africa lead the Rugby Championship table after winning back-to-back home matches against Argentina.
New Zealand thrashed Australia 57-22 at Eden Park in the first round.
Rugby Championship fixtures
TBC: Australia v New Zealand, Optus Stadium, Perth
September 12: New Zealand v Argentina, South Africa v Australia, CBUS Super Stadium, Gold Coast
September 18: Argentina v New Zealand, Australia v South Africa, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
September 25: New Zealand v South Africa, Australia v Argentina, QLD Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
October 2: South Africa v New Zealand, Argentina v Australia: CBUS Super Stadium, Gold Coast
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