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Rugby-Australia to host rest of Rugby Championship after COVID disruptions

MELBOURNE :Australia's Queensland state will host eight Rugby Championship tests in double-headers over four weekends from September in a rejigged schedule following new COVID-19 restrictions across the country and in New Zealand.

Organisers had weighed whether to move games to South Africa or Britain amid lockdowns and tightening travel curbs in Australia and New Zealand.

But after securing approvals from Queensland officials, the partner rugby unions in governing body SANZAAR agreed unanimously to play in the largely coronavirus-free state, Rugby Australia (RA) boss Andy Marinos told reporters on Tuesday.

"Everyone is on the same page, thankfully, and aligned to making sure this Rugby Championship is a success," Marinos said in a video call.

The agreement comes after friction between Australia and New Zealand in recent days following New Zealand Rugby's decision to pull out of the Aug. 28 test against Australia in Perth over concerns about the schedule.

RA hopes the Perth match will go ahead on the following weekend but is waiting for approvals from authorities in Western Australia, which has effectively shut its border to arrivals from New Zealand.

"I'm hopeful we can get confirmation in the next 24-48 hours," Marinos said.

The Gold Coast will host the third round of the Rugby Championship on Sept. 12 and the sixth and final round on Oct. 2.

Brisbane stages round four at Lang Park on Sept. 18 with Townsville holding round five on Sept. 25.

The All Blacks play Argentina, with Australia facing South Africa in the first double-header on the Gold Coast.

The teams will undertake a two-week quarantine at a resort in southeast Queensland before playing under strict biosecurity protocols. South Africa and Argentina are due to arrive in Queensland and start quarantine on Friday.

Organisers have had to rejig the schedule several times due to the shifting COVID landscape, and the latest changes mean increased costs and a revenue hit.

"There's without a doubt an impact because we've lost a huge opportunity in terms of the budgets and the P and L's (profit and loss) presented for some of the games that would have taken place in New Zealand," said Marinos.

"Our costs have increased as we have expected with the quarantine and the additional requirements around that."

South Africa lead the Rugby Championship table after winning back-to-back home matches against Argentina.

New Zealand thrashed Australia 57-22 at Eden Park in the first round.

Rugby Championship schedule:

Round Two

Aug. 21: South Africa 29 v Argentina 10 - Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth

Date TBC: Australia v New Zealand - Perth

Round Three

Sept. 12: New Zealand v Argentina - Gold Coast

Sept. 12: South Africa v Australia - Gold Coast

Round Four

Sept. 18: Argentina v New Zealand - Brisbane

Sept. 18: Australia v South Africa - Brisbane

Round Five

Sept. 25: Australia v Argentina - Townsville

Sept. 25: New Zealand v South Africa - Townsville 

Round Six

Oct. 2: Argentina v Australia - Gold Coast

Oct. 2: South Africa v New Zealand - Gold Coast 

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Kim Coghill and Christian Schmollinger)

Source: Reuters


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