The remaining Rugby Championship test matches will be held in the Australian state of Queensland, following last minute changes to the schedule due to COVID-19 lockdowns.
Queensland has been deemed as safe to host the remaining fixtures due to being largely free of COVID-19 infections, whilst New Zealand recently entered a new national lockdown following the confirmation of 31 new coronavirus cases.
This prompted New Zealand Rugby (NZR) to cancel the All Blacks men’s team games against South Africa, to be held in Dunedin and Auckland, and the Black Ferns women’s side home fixtures against Australia in the O’Reily Cup.
Travel restrictions imposed by New Zealand authorities also led to the third Bledisloe Cup game of 2021, scheduled to be held in Perth on 28 August, to also be cancelled.
However, under the new plans, all the cancelled fixtures will take place as double headers from 12 September onwards, with three venues in the Northeastern Australian state set to host the rounds, with the exception of the Australia-New Zealand game which will be held in Perth at an unconfirmed date.
The rounds will begin with a back-to-back double header in the Gold Coast featuring New Zealand v Argentina and Australia v South Africa in the third round of the Rugby Championship on 12 September. The next rounds will be held in Brisbane and Townsville.
“We thought last year was tough when we had to implement a Tri-Nations tournament in Australia with South Africa absent due to the pandemic, but the current disruption caused by the Delta variant of COVID-19 has seen government authorities tighten up border biosecurity measures substantially,” said Brendan Morris, Chief Executive of Sanzaar, the representative body for Southern Hemisphere rugby union and organiser of the rugby championship.
“This is understandable and therefore, we had no option but to basically move the remainder of the Rugby Championship to Queensland. On behalf of Sanzaar and the national unions, I would like to sincerely thank the Queensland government for working with us around the clock to provide a travel, accommodation, training and playing environment that will safely allow us to complete the tournament.”