Sanzaar is still exploring the option of the Rugby Championship proceeding in Australia, but there are increasing signs it could be moved to the northern hemisphere.
On Friday, another dramatic chapter was added to the Rugby Championship planning schedule, which has been thrown into turmoil due to new Covid-19 regulations in Australia and New Zealand.
In a statement, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) unilaterally announced the All Blacks’ two home Rugby Championship Tests against South Africa will not be played in New Zealand, and that the All Blacks would not be flying to Perth this weekend for the third Bledisloe Cup Test which was scheduled to be played at Optus Stadium on 28 August.
New Zealand Rugby CEO Mark Robinson said: “Without complete certainty on the team’s next movements around the Rugby Championship we felt it was prudent for the team to stay put in New Zealand until Sanzaar have announced the full tournament schedule.
“Once the team leaves our shores, they currently can’t return until 23 November post their Northern Tour, so given the uncertainty, it makes sense to pause and get more clarity on these fixtures.
“We remain 100 percent committed to playing in the entire Rugby Championship in 2021 and are working closely with Sanzaar to look at a range of options to reschedule these important matches.”
However, the decision left Rugby Australia CEO Andy Marinos, the former Sanzaar boss, livid.
“It’s incredibly disappointing to be informed of this decision via the media, despite having a conversation with the CEO moments before and there no mention that this was the intention,” Marinos said in a statement.
“Despite this outcome, I am confident we will find a solution for the whole Rugby Championship in what continues to be a very challenging environment in which to work.
“We have been engaging in positive discussions with both teams as well as government partners and were confident we were close to finding a solution.”
Sanzaar also released a statement about New Zealand Rugby’s decision, and the work being done to find a solution of some kind.
“The ongoing impact of the pandemic, and the latest outbreaks of Covid-19 in Australia and New Zealand, has led to the tightening of regulations placed on travel and quarantine by various state and national governments. This has caused massive disruption to the match schedule for the Rugby Championship.
“However, Sanzaar is currently working night and day with all stakeholders, and the tournaments’ associated commercial partners and rights-holding broadcasters, to find a suitable solution for the remaining matches.
“This also involves talks with the various government departments and health authorities to determine if suitable travel, accommodation and quarantine regulations can be implemented to allow the tournament to proceed in Australia.
“Sanzaar is very disappointed that the New Zealand Rugby Union has made the decision not to travel to Perth at this time to play Australia for its second-round match [and third Bledisloe match].
“However, Sanzaar and the other national unions will continue to work on when and where this match can be played as part of the overall rescheduling work being done. Sanzaar also recognises that this decision is incredibly disappointing for rugby fans in Perth.”
Some reports suggest the third Bledisloe Cup clash could be moved to the United Kingdom despite efforts to play it in Brisbane, where it is believed there were plans to host the remainder of the Rugby Championship.
It is understood the NZR already rejected proposals to play the tournament in South Africa because the All Blacks don’t want to play the 100th Test between the two rugby rivals in the Rainbow Nation.
An increasingly viable alternative could see the tournament shift to the UK and Europe, with all options currently being considered.