New Zealand set to host 2020 Rugby Championship
NEWS: Southern Hemisphere governing body SANZAAR announced plans Thursday to hold this year’s Rugby Championship in New Zealand, as the game’s Kiwi powerbrokers gathered to discuss a radical revamp of Super Rugby.
SANZAAR said it wanted to play the Rugby Championship in one location because of the COVID-19 pandemic and New Zealand was the preferred option because of its success in containing the virus.
“SANZAAR is well advanced in option planning with New Zealand Rugby, which in turn, is now seeking New Zealand government approval,” it said in a statement.
The four-way international tournament involves South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina and is administered by SANZAAR.
It was originally scheduled to begin on August 8 with a clash between the Wallabies and All Blacks in Melbourne, but the fixture has little chance of proceeding as the city battles a resurgence of coronavirus infections.
While SANZAAR hopes to rescue its international schedule by staging the Championship in New Zealand, the future of its Super Rugby competition remains uncertain.
The tournament was suspended in March as virus-related border restrictions halted travel for its 15 teams, which are located in five countries straddling 16 time zones.
New Zealand and Australia have set up domestic competitions but South African teams and Argentina’s Jaguares remain sidelined.
Japan’s Sunwolves, who were set to be axed at the end of the season even before the pandemic, have been disbanded.
The New Zealand Rugby board on Thursday met to discuss a review of Super Rugby, which has long been criticised as unwieldy, expensive to run, exhausting for elite players and difficult for fans to follow.
The review, called Aratipu, the indigenous Maori word for “growth”, has not been released but reportedly focuses on a trans-Tasman competition without South African teams and the Jaguares.
New Zealand media say the review proposes an eight-team competition, comprising five Kiwi Super Rugby teams and two or three from Australia, depending on whether a Pacific islands team is included.
The prospect has caused consternation in Australia, which would like to see five teams participate, including the Perth-based Western Force, who were cut from Super Rugby in 2017.
Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan last week said the relationship between the two unions was “a bit master-servant”, with New Zealand holding the whip hand.
All Blacks coach Ian Foster countered by questioning the depth of Australian rugby, saying weak teams would detract from the quality of a revamped competition.
“This is not a charity,” he told newshub.co.nz.
“We’ve got to actually make sure they’re feasible, they’re financially viable and the public are going to really get in behind them.”
New Zealand Rugby said it was unsure when the results of the Aratipu review would be made public.
Full SANZAAR statement below:
SANZAAR Competitions Update
Following recent media commentary around the long-term future of SANZAAR, the future structure of its competitions and the rest of the 2020 playing calendar, CEO Andy Marinos, has today, provided the context under which future planning is taking place amidst the impact of the current pandemic.
“It goes without saying that we are operating in a very dynamic and fluid environment that has additional layers of complexity given the diverse, multi-jurisdictional nature of our international cross-border competition structures. The impact of COVID has forced a rethink on the Super Rugby competition and The Rugby Championship delivery in 2020. Due to the ongoing uncertainty over international travel for 2021 and beyond the Member Unions are also working on solutions past this year that will excite fans, broadcasters and deliver high-performance outcomes for the Unions.
The SANZAAR Joint Venture is not being dismantled. The Member Unions remain committed to the long-term future as a Joint Venture. We all recognise the current challenges we face in trying to settle on any potential Super Rugby competition structures moving forward under the pandemic environment, however the restructuring of Super Rugby through reformatted competitions does not mean the dismantling of SANZAAR.
There is a clear understanding that the value of the SANZAAR alliance and the pathway of Super Rugby to international rugby remains critical to the long-term success, development and competitiveness of the respective National Teams. Our record in cross-hemisphere matches and World Cup tournaments are evidence of this.
Having successfully restarted Super Rugby this year in Australia and New Zealand our focus is now on The Rugby Championship (TRC) that is set to be played in one central location. We have determined that New Zealand is currently the favoured option given the COVID stability within the region. Critical to this, however, is alignment with the New Zealand Government around its requirements for this to take place. SANZAAR is well advanced in option planning with New Zealand Rugby, which in turn, is now seeking New Zealand Government approval. It is hoped that details on the TRC will be announced in the near future.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has been particularly tough for our partners in Argentina as the size and length of the ‘lockdown’ has meant they are not able to play in any further revised Super Rugby domestic competition this year. That said SANZAAR is continuing to work with the Argentina Rugby Union (UAR) in looking for solutions to give their players some meaningful match preparation as we look ahead to the rest of 2020 with The Rugby Championship. SANZAAR is also assisting South Africa Rugby as it plans a return to play strategy in the weeks ahead.”