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New Zealand poised to become sole host of 2020 Rugby Championship

作者:admin 2020-07-21

New Zealand is poised stage the entire Rugby Championship this year after its government gave the concept a tentative green light. Southern hemisphere governing body Sanzaar said it wants New Zealand as sole host of the four-nation Test tournament because of its success in containing the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kiwi government officials responded that NZ Rugby and Sanzaar would need to agree to its safety stipulations before opening its doors.

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Sport and Recreation minister Grant Robertson said he was open to staging all of the games but would need to ensure facilities are available for large squads of players and staff to undergo quarantine and train safely.

“These kinds of economic opportunities are what we expect given the advantage New Zealand has because of the Government’s decision to go hard and early in the response to Covid-19,” Robertson said. Health Minister Chris Hipkins said the travelling teams would have to cover their own costs for quarantining.

Sanzaar chief executive Andy Marinos said the four-nation tournament can only be staged in one central location because of international travel restrictions and that discussions with NZ Rugby were “well advanced”.

It is unclear if there is any prospect of staging the tournament in Australia if the New Zealand proposal falls over. A surge in coronavirus cases this month may have counted against Australia, while New Zealand is presently dealing with just 22 active cases - all involving overseas returnees who are in managed isolation.

Sanzaar’s plan for the tournament may mean all Bledisloe Cup Tests this year are played on New Zealand soil if a trans-Tasman travel bubble hasn’t opened. Wellington has long been mooted as host for the first Bledisloe Cup Test, understood to be pencilled in for 10 October.

Full crowds have been allowed to watch Super Rugby Aotearoa matches. The Kiwi-only competition has run for a month without a hitch. Last week, NZ Rugby said it had pitched to stage the Rugby Championship but didn’t indicate if it will comprise the usual double round-robin format.

Sanzaar’s announcement comes amid the backdrop of trans-Tasman debate over the future makeup of Super Rugby, with NZ Rugby said to favour a structure that features a reduced number of Australian teams from 2021.

Marinos confirmed the lockdown in Argentina meant players in that country won’t play any domestic rugby this year and discussions are under way to unearth meaningful preparation for their Test players ahead of the Rugby Championship. He said South Africa Rugby had planned a return-to-play strategy “in the weeks ahead”.

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