NZR boss: Tests against Pacific and European nations on the cards for All Blacks this year
New Zealand Rugby boss Mark Robinson says he hasn’t ruled out the prospect of the All Blacks facing off against nations from the Pacific Islands and the Northern Hemisphere in 2020.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced the postponement and cancellation of rugby worldwide this year, with international travel restrictions, economic shortfalls and social distancing measures halting the game across the globe in March.
The All Blacks haven’t been immune to the outbreak, with their July test series against Wales and Scotland have been postponed indefinitely, with little sign that the fixtures will go ahead in their intended window.
However, the return of Super Rugby in New Zealand via the revised Super Rugby Aotearoa competition, which is set to kick-off next Saturday, will act as a springboard for the return of professional rugby.
Rugby Australia is set to follow suit with a domestic competition of its own, featuring the addition of the Western Force, early next month.
At an international level, Rugby Australia (RA) interim chief executive Rob Clarke has revealed his organisation is in discussions with its SANZAAR partners New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina about staging the Rugby Championship solely in Australia.
RA is also seeking to lock in an extended four-match Bledisloe Cup series between the Wallabies and All Blacks, but Robinson is hopeful of securing further tests against international sides outside of the SANZAAR sphere.
“The most likely international scenario we can see at the moment is playing some sort of international rugby in the last quarter of the year,” the NZR boss told Radio New Zealand.
“We are talking to all different parties some – [the] northern hemisphere, our SANZAAR partners for trans-Tasman bubbles or the Pacific – they could be a team.”
Robinson also commented on reports out of South Africa that the country’s four Super Rugby sides – the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers – could be set to join Europe’s PRO14 competition between next year and 2023.
As New Zealand, Australia and South Africa devise plans for what a post-coronavirus world looks like for their club sides, the Jaguares – and Argentine rugby – have been left in the realm of uncertainty.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) June 2, 2020
The move would allow fixtures to take place in a much more time zone-friendly competition for the South African clubs, with the Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs and Southern Kings out of Port Elizabeth already plying their trade in the PRO14.
The four SANZAAR partners currently have a Super Rugby deal in place that will extend to 2026, but Robinson wouldn’t rule out the South African franchises departing the competition sooner than that.
“There’s a lot of media speculation around all the joint venture (competitions),” he told RNZ.
“But what is important is that we go to these meetings and get everything on the table and understand where each of the parties is at and try to work through the challenges.”
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