WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand Rugby is “optimistic” about entertaining northern hemisphere teams on an international schedule later in 2020 as the country draws closer to lifting social distance restrictions.
New Zealand will decide on Monday whether it is ready to downgrade the COVID-19 warning system to level 1, which will end restrictions on mass gatherings and allow fans at sporting events.
NZR Chief Executive Mark Robinson told Radio New Zealand on Wednesday that the governing body was looking at an insignificant “international ruby” schedule in the last quarter of 2020.
“We talked with all different parties about what appeared. Some are in the northern hemisphere, some in terms of our SANZAAR partners, “he said.
“The underlying meaning is optimism.”
SANZAAR is the organizer of the annual Rugby Championships in the four southern hemisphere countries between New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina.
Robinson said the NZR also saw opportunities involving Pacific countries, which had recorded minimal COVID-19 infections.
“They can be a (Pacific) team or a team choice,” he said.
“There are others who reach out and they look at New Zealand and see if there is an opportunity to come here depending on the border and quarantine and border issues.”
New Zealand, which has not recorded new cases of coronavirus for 12 consecutive days on Wednesday, has no immediate plans to reopen its borders.
Australia’s interim Rugby CEO Rob Clarke said on Tuesday that the governing body was in talks with colleagues from New Zealand, Argentina and South Africa about entertaining countries at a “hub” to allow the thick Rugby Championship to move forward.
Robinson declined to elaborate on the proposal but said there was an “appetite” for a number of possibilities, including playing the All Blacks test which was postponed in July against Wales and Scotland in October, depending on the status of club competition in the northern hemisphere.
“We are certainly pleased about the possibility of moving July to October … It’s very much awaiting and seeing.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford
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