Rugby Australia in talks to host condensed Rugby Championship

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South Africa's Cobus Reinach celebrates after scoring a try during the 2019 Rugby Championship match, South Africa v Australia, at the Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg, on July 20, 2019. (Photo by Christiaan Kotze / AFP) (Photo credit should read CHRISTIAAN KOTZE/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: South Africa’s Cobus Reinach celebrates after scoring a try during the 2019 Rugby Championship match, South Africa v Australia, at the Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg. (Photo credit CHRISTIAAN KOTZE/AFP/Getty Images)

Rugby Australia (RA) held discussions with the federal government with a view of hosting a condensed Rugby Championship this year should it be staged during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rugby Australia wants defending champions South Africa, New Zealand and Argentina to be allowed to enter the country and be based in a “hub” for the duration of the event.

Rugby, and sport, in general, in Australia has taken a significant hit since the onset of the virus particularly with the indefinite suspension of Super Rugby in March.

Limited domestic competition has been cleared to resume in the country following a two-month lockdown but doubts remain over the possibility of international competition due to travel restrictions and border closures.

“We’re working with our SANZAAR partners around what the TRC (The Rugby Championship) looks like and it is condensed,” RA interim CEO Rob Clarke told reporters.

International sides would have to get an exemption from Australia’s strict border closures and submit to 14 days in isolation before participating in the competition, according to Clarke.

“We’re exploring whether there can be a ‘bubble’ here in Australia and we fly in all of the SANZAAR partners and they are in a training bubble and then we can quarantine effectively and play a competition,” Clarke said.

Clarke added that every party was, however, committed to trying to play a full tournament.

Clarke also wants to establish an expanded four-Test Bledisloe Cup series, from the current three, with Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand with two matches played in Australia.

“There will be an extended Bledisloe Cup and we’re well advanced with our discussions with our New Zealand colleagues on that,” he said.

Clarke says the move would strengthen the body’s financial position as it continues to grapple with cost-cutting measures which have seen about a third of people lose their jobs.

“A key part of our financial underpinning is a successful Wallabies. It’s not everything, but it’s certainly key so we’ll be protecting that as much as possible.”

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