Australia proposes quarantine hub for Rugby Championship

SYDNEY (AP) — Rugby Australia is aiming to establish a quarantine hub in a bid to host the four-nation Rugby Championship this year.

Australian officials have been in discussions with the federal government and with rugby administrators in New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina with a view to holding a condensed version of the event.

All international rugby has been shuttered since March because of the coronavirus pandemic, but restrictions in Australia and New Zealand are gradually easing.

“We’re exploring whether there can be a ‘bubble’ here in Australia and we fly in all of the SANZAAR partners,” Rugby Australia Interim Chief Executive Rob Clarke said yesterday. Foreign teams could be “in a training bubble and then we can quarantine effectively and play a competition”. The rugby championship is usually played on a home-and-away basis.

Clarke is also seeking to lock in an expanded four-test Bledisloe Cup series with the New Zealand All Blacks.

He said his top priority is to start matches again, with a five-team, 12-week domestic Super Rugby tournament set to begin next month, pending approval from broadcasters.

Rugby Australia is aiming to schedule the Bledisloe Cup and a Rugby Championship after the domestic competition finishes in September.

Clarke said an expanded Bledisloe Cup series, with two matches played in Australia, would also boost Rugby Australia’s finances after they initially predicted a AUD120 million revenue hit if no further play was possible in 2020.

Players, coaches and staff have already had to take pay cuts, and there’s been an almost 40 per cent reduction in the workforce within the sport’s national administration.

Clarke said every Rugby Australia department had been reviewed, leading to 47 of the 142 full-time staff and a further 30 contractors or casual employees losing their jobs.