SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos has reportedly denied claims that South Africa are set to shun the Rugby Championship this year and play in the north instead.

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The world champion Springboks, who were also the 2019 Rugby Championship winners, are likely to join the new eight-team northern hemisphere tournament at the end of this year, according to French media.

Japan have pulled out because of Covid-19 travel restrictions, and World Rugby vice-chairman Bernard Laporte told Le Progress in France there are “advanced discussions” with South Africa.

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“The Japanese will not come to Europe….we are looking for a nation to replace them. We are in advanced talks with South Africa. It would be great to be able to face the Springboks, world champions in the title, but it’s not yet done,” Laporte said.

Marinos has told Newshub there is “no substance” to the story.

Last week, Marinos said New Zealand was still set to host the Rugby Championship in November and December, with West Australia a back-up option.

There are lingering concerns about New Zealand’s ability to host the Rugby Championship – a tournament which has been dominated by the All Blacks – because of the virus outbreak in Auckland.

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But Marinos told Stuff: “I feel as if we’re close…my philosophy is you’ve got to control the controllables, and make sure we’re doing everything we can so that when the green light is given we can turn things on.”

When approached for comment by NZME, a SANZAAR representative said no comment would be made at the moment.

There is general confusion over rugby’s schedule with various conflicting reports coming out.

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The eight-team tournament will involve England, Wales, Ireland and Fiji in one pool, and Scotland, Italy and France confirmed for the other.

Georgia was originally considered as a replacement for Japan, but that may have changed.

Adding to the confusion, the BBC quoted a South Africa Rugby spokesperson who said they had “no knowledge of such an arrangement being planned”.

Marinos said last week that New Zealand was opposed to shifting the Rugby Championship to March/April, to align with the Six Nations, but Australia was more open to it. This year’s hastily arranged RC will run from November 7 to December 12.

The eight-team tournament replaces the usual autumn schedule for the northern teams, and will start on November 15 which is a fortnight after the Six Nations ends. The final is at Twickenham on December 6.

It is also reported that England players have agreed to a 25 percent pay cut for the matches, a drop of about $12,000 per game.

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