WELLINGTON – New Zealand has been confirmed as the preferred hosts of a centralised Rugby Championship later this year, pending government approval, governing body Sanzaar said on Thursday.
Sanzaar had been working on a hub hosting all of the games in the annual southern hemisphere competition due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, although Australia had been reported as the most likely venue.
Both Australia and New Zealand had significant success in initially slowing the spread of the virus and have restarted professional sports competitions, although concerns have risen over new outbreaks in Australia’s Victoria and New South Wales states.
New Zealand, however, has virtually eliminated the coronavirus domestically, with the current 27 cases all from returning citizens in quarantine facilities.
“We have determined that New Zealand is currently the favoured option given the Covid-19 stability within the region,” Sanzaar said in a statement.
“Sanzaar is well advanced in option planning with New Zealand Rugby, which in turn, is now seeking New Zealand Government approval.”
There was no confirmation of dates.
New Zealand’s borders are still closed to anyone but citizens or permanent residents, but exemptions have been granted to essential workers and to allow America’s Cup teams to begin arriving in the country for next year’s regatta.
All of the national rugby teams from South Africa, Australia and Argentina, would need to complete a 14-day quarantine period upon arrival in New Zealand.
Sanzaar added that it was working to give Argentina’s players “some meaningful match preparation” ahead of the Rugby Championship.
Argentina’s players have been idle since mid-March, when Super Rugby went into shutdown.