WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The New Zealand government says it is open to having Rugby Championship test matches played in the country later this year, as long as facilities can be found to allow visiting teams to quarantine securely and train.
Southern hemisphere governing body Sanzaar said Thursday that playing matches in New Zealand is now the best option to ensure the tournament involving Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa goes ahead in 2020.
Sanzaar previously had its hopes set on playing matches in Australia. But a spike in COVID-19 cases in Victoria state and a smaller surge in New South Wales now makes that impractical.
New Zealand has virtually eliminated the coronavirus. On Thursday it had gone 76 days without a case of community transmission and all active cases are returning travelers held at the border in managed isolation. Life has returned to normal, including full stadiums at sports events.
Sanzaar chief executive Andy Marinos said Thursday that New Zealand is the best bet for seeing the Rugby Championship played this year.
"Critical to this, however, is alignment with the New Zealand Government around its requirements for this to take place,” Marinos said. “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 will be announced in the near future.”
New Zealand Sports Minister Grant Robertson said “discussions are underway” about hosting the Championship."
“We are open to the idea of hosting these international games here,” he said. “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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