World Rugby rubber stamps revamped Rugby Championship in New Zealand

The All Blacks and Springboks still seem set for regular contact. Picture: STUFF SPORTS.

World Rugby approved a five-week window for the Rugby Championship to be played in New Zealand in November and December.

The coronavirus pandemic has restricted airline travel and closed borders, causing the cancellation of the big southern hemisphere teams’ annual tours of Europe.

Those teams -_ Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa – will now try to play their Rugby Championship from November 7 to December 12.

Instead of the usual home-and-away matches, however, New Zealand has been asked by Sanzaar to host the competition. New Zealand has been playing a domestic Super Rugby Aotearoa spinoff tournament to packed stadiums since June.

New Zealand Rugby bosses must now convince their government the tournament can be played inside the current regulations around immigration entry and health regulations.

World Rugby also gave a temporary expansion of the autumn international window to try to finish the Six Nations and allow for more money-making test matches.

The window that obliges clubs to release players for their country is usually confined to November, but with no major rugby since March and national unions in deepening debt, the window has been enlarged from October 24 to the second weekend of December.

The incomplete Six Nations can play four postponed men’s matches and six women’s matches on October 24 and 31.

The weekend of November 7 will be a rest, followed by four consecutive weekends of internationals.

The Six Nations sides — England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Wales — have proposed a tournament with Japan and Fiji. Whether spectators are allowed to attend depends on health protocols in each country.

“Approval follows extensive and productive dialogue between the sport’s major stakeholders, balancing the interests of the international game, the professional club game and player welfare to determine a schedule that will optimise the immediate financial recovery and funding of the sport at all levels,” World Rugby said.

World Rugby added it was also talking with Tier Two unions about helping them to put together fixtures where Covid-19 restrictions permit.

 

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