Rugby Championship set for significant revamp next year
The Rugby Championship is set for its first overhaul since Argentina was admitted into the competition eight years ago.
The New Zealand Herald has revealed that the competition will be re-formatted so that the All Blacks and Wallabies will play the Springboks and Argentina at home on a biennial basis, and vice versa.
The shift in scheduling brings an end to teams having to travel halfway across the globe to play two matches against opposing sides each year.
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Instead, the All Blacks, for example, will only play one of either South Africa or the Pumas at home once each season, while they will face the other side once abroad in the same year.
The Wallabies will do the same in a mirror image, with fixtures reversing the following year to ensure both the All Blacks and Australia host the side they play away from home next year in 2022.
The reasoning behind the alteration steams from a desire to bring a greater sense of occasion to fixtures for fans, as the Springboks and Pumas will only play in New Zealand or Australia every second year, and likewise for the All Blacks and Wallabies playing in South Africa and Argentina.
Bledisloe Cup fixtures between New Zealand and Australia will remain unchanged, as the trans-Tasman rivals will continue to face off twice annually on home-and-away basis, as will the Springboks and Pumas.
The move has also been engineered to give the Rugby Championship a ‘retro’ theme, whereby international sides can feel that they are on an old-fashioned tour.
Although it is unlikely, there remains a possibility that the All Blacks and Wallabies can travel with extended squads to play mid-week fixtures in South Africa and Argentina.
The same concept could also be utilised by the Springboks and Pumas when they travel to Australasia, and SANZAAR is hopeful that the changes will bring a more compelling edge to the Rugby Championship, something of which the competition has severely lacked in comparison to its Six Nations counterparts in Europe since expanding to a four-team tournament in 2012.
The added bonus of making the Rugby Championship a more difficult competition to win by reverting the number of annual matches to just four per side is also a prominent factor in the scheduling overhaul.
Since Argentina’s admission into the Southern Hemisphere’s premier international tournament, the All Blacks have claimed six of the eight titles.
The two times they didn’t win – in 2015 and 2019 – came in years that the competition was shortened due to the World Cup.
In every other year where the tournament was held in its current format, whereby every teams plays each other both home and away, the All Blacks have dominated proceedings, often clinching the title with one or even two matches to spare.
A favourable scheduling system – which has remained consistent since 2012 – has seen them play the Wallabies, Springboks and Pumas in successive fixtures every year, possibly a significant factor behind their unprecedented success in the Rugby Championship.
Prior to their run of three straight home matches, the All Blacks have continually opened their campaigns in Australia before finishing the competition with back-to-back clashes in Argentina and South Africa.
Conversely, the Pumas have always had to play three consecutive matches on the road against the Springboks, All Blacks and Wallabies in that order.
Those run of fixtures have been sandwiched by a campaign-opening home clash against South Africa and two further home matches against Australia and New Zealand.
An alteration in scheduling will offset travel burdens faced by all four sides in the Rugby Championship, a facet of the competition that players have struggled with given they then have to tour Europe a matter of weeks after the tournament’s conclusion.
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