• New Zealand-based Rugby Champs ‘close’

    Sanzaar CEO Andy Marinos has confirmed that New Zealand remains on track to host the Rugby Championship in November despite a ‘fluid’ situation regarding the Covid-19 pandemic.

    World Rugby has allocated the Rugby Championships a Test window between 7 November and 12 December, with New Zealand indicated as Sanzaar’s favoured host nation as the country has kept their Covid-19 infection rate low over the past few months, allowing rugby to return in the form of Super Rugby Aotearoa.

    Sanzaar has discussed the idea of a centralised hub in New Zealand, with Queenstown spoken about as an ideal location.

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    However, a re-emergence of the coronavirus in Auckland has led to fears that these plans could be scuppered. New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern raised the Covid-19 alert level to level 3 in Auckland until this Sunday, while the rest of the country will remain on level 2 until Sunday, 6 September.

    In an interview with Stuff.co.nz on Friday, Sanzaar boss Marinos admitted the situation surrounding the Rugby Championships was still ‘fluid’, but was still confident that New Zealand could host the tournament.

    ‘I feel as if we’re close,’ Marinos told Stuff.co.nz. ‘If numbers and infections [in New Zealand] remain at this level or start improving, then we’re very optimistic.

    ‘But one can’t ignore the fact of what we saw in New Zealand a few weeks ago, when there was an outbreak out of nowhere and swift reaction that was taken in order to contain it.

    ‘There is always that element of unpredictability, but my philosophy throughout this whole pandemic is you’ve got to control the controllables, and make sure we’re doing everything we can so that when the green light is given we can turn things on.’

    The Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday reported that Rugby Australia has been working on an alternate plan to host the Rugby Championship in Australia, with either New-South Wales or Queensland as the host cities.

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    Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images