Australia’s Queensland state will host the remainder of the Rugby Championship, officials said on Tuesday after frantic talks to secure a venue for the pandemic-hit tournament.
New Zealand, Australia, world champions South Africa and Argentina will play four double-header Tests in front of fans between 12 September and 2 October in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Townsville.
The fate of the third Bledisloe Cup game between the Wallabies and All Blacks, which doubles as a Rugby Championship clash and was due to be played in Perth this weekend, will be decided in coming days.
But governing body Sanzaar confirmed it would remain in the city.
“We thought last year was tough … but the current disruption caused by the Delta variant of Covid-19 has seen government authorities tighten up border bio-security measures substantially,” said Sanzaar chief Brendan Morris.
“This is understandable and, therefore, we had no option but to basically move the remainder of the Rugby Championship to Queensland.”
The teams will be based at Sanctuary Cove on the Gold Coast for a managed quarantine period, which was not disclosed but is usually 14 days for international travellers.
It is the second year running that the southern-hemisphere competition has been thrown into disarray by the virus, with South Africa pulling out altogether in 2020.
Two rounds have been played so far but with New Zealand currently in lockdown, officials said the All Blacks’ two Tests against the Springboks could not be played at home due to South Africa being unable to enter the country.
Their clashes with Argentina had already been moved to Australia.
But scheduled venues in Sydney, Canberra and Newcastle have since been ruled out with the Delta variant rampant and New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory also in lockdown.
South Africa offered to host the disrupted tournament, but Rugby Australia always favoured Queensland, which has escaped the worst of the virus and with crowds permitted in stadiums.
RA chief executive Andy Marinos called it a “once-in-a-lifetime event” for the state.
“Four unmissable back-to-back double-headers featuring four of the very best Test nations in world rugby – all in Queensland’s backyard,” he said.
2021 Rugby Championship Match Schedule *
TBC: Australia vs New Zealand: Optus Stadium, Perth**
Sunday, 12 September: New Zealand vs Argentina: CBUS Super Stadium, Gold Coast
Sunday, 12 September: South Africa vs Australia: CBUS Super Stadium, Gold Coast
Saturday, 18 September: Argentina vs New Zealand: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Saturday, 18 September: Australia vs South Africa: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Sat, 25 September: New Zealand vs South Africa: QLD Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
Sat, 25 September: Australia v Argentina: QLD Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
Sat, 2 October: South Africa vs New Zealand: CBUS Super Stadium, Gold Coast
Sat, 2 October: Argentina vs Australia: CBUS Super Stadium, Gold Coast
* All kick-off times and match order to be confirmed
** Also third Bledisloe Cup match – date to be confirmed
© Agence France-Presse
Photo: Getty Images