Rugby Australia 'hopeful' of crowds for France series
Buoyed by the capacity State of Origin crowd in Brisbane, Rugby Australia is hopeful the opening Wallabies-France Test can enjoy the same freedoms after relocating the match from Sydney’s SCG to Suncorp Stadium.
A crowd of over 50,000 attended the second Origin rugby league match on Sunday night and RA boss Andy Marinos believes Brisbane is the safest bet to host the July 7 Test match as COVID-19 cases worsen around the country.
The first and third Tests will both now played in Brisbane and the second Test is a hit-and-run mission to Melbourne.
The two teams will share a charter flight from Queensland to the Victorian capital and are expected to fly back together after the AAMI Park match on July 13.
The Wallabies are currently based on the Gold Coast while the French are in quarantine in Sydney and will fly to Brisbane when they exit the day before the first Test.
“Newcastle was an option but with the hard lockdown coming into Sydney there was no guarantee that wasn’t going to be extended outside of that area to capture the regional areas,” Marinos said on Monday.
“Brisbane is probably our safest bet at this point in time.
“We saw a wonderful celebration of sport at Suncorp – fantastic (Origin) game, full crowds so we will keep tuned into the health officials.”
Marinos said he was in daily contact with France manager Raphael Ibanez and they had been “very understanding of the situation”.
“They’re certainly not immune to it – they had to deal with it during the Six Nations so they’ve been really fantastic to work with,” he said.
RA have transferred existing tickets from the SCG Test to a Wallabies-Springboks Test at the same venue in September and offered refunds as an alternative, and with Brisbane Tests usually well attended, they don’t expect to take too much of a financial hit from the move.
This may change with the Queensland government introducing tighter restrictions from Tuesday.
“We’ve seen the people of Queensland have supported major events and we’re pretty confident we will get a good crowd that will be able to manage the impact,” Marinos said.
“It’s a bit difficult at this stage to say what that hole will be but we’ve got a whole lot of mitigation strategies in place to try to reduce that as much as possible if there’s going to be one at all.”
He said that the Springboks and Argentina will play their two Tests in South Africa following the British and Irish Lions tour there and then will complete two weeks quarantine while Australia and New Zealand square off in Auckland and Perth.
“We will then be able to run the Rugby Championship proper between Australia and New Zealand; so we will have the Aussies and South Africans playing two games and then South Africa going across the ditch and reciprocating with Argentina.
“We’re just finalising the venues and should soon be able to announce where they will take place.”
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