Picture: 123RF/WAVEBREAK MEDIA
Picture: 123RF/WAVEBREAK MEDIA

Australia is pressing on with plans to host this year’s Rugby Championship.

While the grip of Covid-19 is still felt keenly worldwide‚ restrictions in coming months‚ especially Down Under‚ are likely to be eased to the point where international competition becomes feasible.

Cash-strapped Rugby Australia (RA)‚ according to the Sydney Morning Herald‚ is working on a strategy that will see Australia‚ New Zealand‚ SA and Argentina gather in one hub and contest the 2020 competition.

The paper reports RA is in talks with Fox Sports in the hope of thrashing out a deal.

The tournament‚ scheduled originally to run from August 8 to September 27‚ will almost certainly be pushed back. Australia’s domestic competition‚ although not confirmed‚ is expected to end on September 19. A date beyond that is a likely starting point.

It is understood all the teams will be based in one hub to limit their  exposure to the coronavirus. Logistically it eases pressure to have the competition in one hub.

If the tournament is played in one hub, the Springboks will probably avoid being based in Perth, as they often were when visiting Australia. Due to the large South African expat community in the city, the Boks have played the Wallabies nine times in Perth since the competition began in 1996.

Though New South Wales has recorded the most coronavirus infections in Australia, possibly because of its higher population density, the competition will probably be played in the state capital Sydney.

Australia’s sporting hub‚ Melbourne‚ will also come into the reckoning. But as an Aussie Rules stronghold, rugby needs to still win hearts and minds in the state of Victoria.

It is unlikely the competition will be played outside Sydney as it is the only venue where inbound teams don’t have to catch connecting flights‚ which may further compromise their safety.

Details of the proposed format are not clear but a double round of matches‚ which is usually the case‚ is unlikely to be rubber-stamped because of time constraints. What is more likely to get the green light is a single round of matches in which all teams play each other once.

Assuming the two matches in each round are played a day apart, the competition will be wrapped up in three weeks. Double headers would have created more of a spectacle, but that may not be deemed safe for players‚ coaches‚ support staff and officials.

The teams arriving in Australia will also have to be quarantined for two weeks before they are allowed to play.

Central to the competition taking place this year will be permission from their governments to travel.