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Super rugby could resume domestically

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Rugby Australia has released details of a very loose plan that could see Super rugby teams resuming rugby in Australia and involving only Australian teams in early April.

The Rugby Australia (RA) statement reveals that the Sunwolves have withdrawn from Super rugby and that they have held talks to replace them with the Western Force.


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Super rugby’s administrators have not released any real details of the plan but in the RA release, they said that the four Australian Super Rugby clubs, Rugby Australia, and RUPA have agreed to proceed towards the finalization of a domestic competition model as part of SANZAAR’s solution for the remainder of the 2020 Super Rugby season.

Super rugby was suspended at the end of Round 7 after New Zealand and Australian Governments imposed travel restrictions. Over the past week officials from across each of the five countries involved have held talks over the future of the 2020 competition.

Earlier this week SA Rugby president Mr. Mark Alexander confirmed that due to social distancing measures all rugby in South Africa has been suspended until the end of April.

Late last week Sanzaar boss Andy Marinos said that if Super rugby did not resume within five weeks the tournament would be scrapped for 2020 because of scheduling constraints.

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson has also revealed that they are working on a domestic league featuring the five New Zealand Super Rugby teams.

Rugby Australia are the first to reveal plans for resuming a form of Super rugby.

The continuation of the competition in Australia will involve the four Australian teams playing within Australia only, in a round-robin home-and-away format beginning on April 3. Discussions are continuing at SANZAAR level and with competition broadcasters on the specifics of the draw and Finals Series. All matches would be played in closed venues in line with current Australian Government restrictions on public gatherings.

Following the unfortunate withdrawal of Japan’s Sunwolves, who are part of the Australian Super Rugby conference, due to new travel restrictions imposed by the Australian Government on Thursday, Rugby Australia has approached the Western Force to join the four Australian Super Rugby teams to play in the new proposed domestic model.

Rugby Australia Chief Executive, Raelene Castle said: “Rugby Australia, the four Australian Super Rugby teams and RUPA are united behind the continuation of Super Rugby in 2020 and have been intensively working towards a competition solution with our SANZAAR partners over the past six days. There are still some elements to work through as a group, but we are extremely confident that we will deliver a meaningful product for the remainder of the season for fans and broadcasters.

“We have agreed on the principles of proceeding down the path of a domestic solution in Australia which will see our teams compete against each other in a round-robin format from April through June, followed by a yet to be determined Finals Series format.

“While our focus has been on developing a competition model that will enable us to meet our commitments to fans and broadcasters, careful attention has also been given to ensure we are doing everything we can to protect the welfare of our players, support staff and match officials under the new proposed model. The Chief Medical Officers of each nation have been integral to these discussions, and together with the announcement of the new competition, we will be announcing a range of measures and protocols to be introduced for the remainder of the season in the interest of protecting and safeguarding our athletes.

“In what has been a challenging time for everyone in our sport, we have seen the Rugby bodies in Australia come together to put their full weight behind finding a way for our game to continue in 2020 and on behalf of Rugby Australia I offer our sincere gratitude to SANZAAR and each of our Super Rugby teams, RUPA, Global Rapid Rugby and the Western Force, and FOX SPORTS.”

“We hope to provide a further update on the Super Rugby season with our SANZAAR partners in the coming days.”

The RA plan throws up several questions though such as if Australian teams resume playing at the start of April and South African teams only resume in May they will have played vastly differing numbers of rounds.

In addition the question of how results involving matches against the Western Force will be counted towards qualification for the “yet to be determined Finals Series format.”

There is also the question of how the finals could be played fairly if the Australian and New Zealand borders are still closed.

UPDATE: The Australian plan has been suspended until at least May 1 after the Australian Government and various State and Territory Governments introduced further measures to fight the spread of Coronavirus.

All Australian Super Rugby teams have ceased training for an initial two-week period, following which players will begin modified training programs while the competition comes under further review in mid-April.

Rugby Australia Chief Executive, Raelene Castle said, “Our message to the entire Rugby community today is to follow the advice of the Government and health authorities. We must do whatever it takes to stop the spread of the virus. The spirit of the Rugby community is a powerful force, and the only way out of this crisis is to work together and look out for each other. While this is having an unprecedented impact on our sport and many other sports, this is bigger than sport and that is why we will continue to put the health and welfare of our people above anything else.”

The South African Government has declared a 21-day lockdown across the country from March 26.

The New Zealand Government has the coronavirus alert status to level 3 so all rugby in New Zealand will be suspended for the foreseeable future.

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