New Zealand lined up to host all Tests in 2020 Rugby Championship
Southern hemisphere rugby chiefs announced plans on Thursday to hold the four-nation Rugby Championship exclusively in New Zealand.
The annual competition between rugby union teams from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina normally features a home and away Test.
The 2020 edition was scheduled to begin on 8 August with a clash between Australia and New Zealand in Melbourne. However the Test has little chance of proceeding while the city copes with a lockdown against a resurgence of coronavirus infections.
With travel restrictions still in place due to the pandemic, SANZAAR, the tournament's organising body, has asked the New Zealand government if it will sanction hosting the competition because of its success in containing the virus.
On Thursday, New Zealand had gone 76 days without a case of community transmission. All active cases have been travellers returning from abroad.
Life has returned to normal, including full stadiums at sports events.
“Sanzaar is well advanced in option planning with New Zealand Rugby which in turn is now seeking New Zealand government approval," said Sanzaar chief executive Andy Marinos.
"Critical to this, however, is alignment with the New Zealand government around its requirements for this to take place."
New Zealand's All Blacks have won six of the eight Rugby Championships since its inception in 2012. South Africa won it in 2019 shortly before advancing to ultimate glory at the World Cup in Japan.
Before Argentina's arrival, New Zealand claimed 10 of the 16 titles in the Tri-Nations competition which ran between 1996 and 2011.
New Zealand's sports minister, Grant Robertson, said: “We are open to the idea of hosting these international games. But of course we will need to ensure they can be held safely and we have the appropriate facilities available so that players can isolate and train upon entry to New Zealand.”
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