Rugby Australia freezes proposed domestic competition due to coronavirus

Ross Houston
March 25, 2020

All rugby in New Zealand has been suspended for the foreseeable future following government's decision to increase the coronavirus alert level and go into lockdown.

It was confirmed the 2020 Super Rugby season would be suspended after round seven due the COVID-19 outbreak.

Since then, governing body Sanzaar has been exploring ways to resume the 18-round tournament, with Australia agreeing to a domestic competition without fans in line with government restrictions on public gatherings of more than 500 people.

The inclusion of Western Force effectively heralds the end of the Sunwolves' involvement in Super Rugby, with SANZAAR having announced its intention to cut the Japanese franchise from 2021 after the Japanese Rugby Football Union withdrew funding.

Rugby Australia hoped to launch on April 3 a competition involving its four Super Rugby teams and the Perth-based Western Force but now says that competition won't begin until at least May 1.

Their withdrawal has opened the door for the Western Force to be welcomed back into the national fray.

"Rugby Australia and the Super Rugby teams have made the decision today to suspend the start of the revised competition on the latest guidance from the various government and health authorities and our Chief Medical Officer", RA chief executive Raelene Castle said in a statement.

Castle said while the focus had been on developing a competition model that would enable RA to meet their commitments to fans and broadcasters, careful attention had also been given to protect the welfare of our players, support staff and match officials under the new proposed model.

It means New Zealanders have been instructed to stay at home as schools and businesses - except for essential services - close down throughout that period, while travel across the country will be severely limited.

A further review will follow in mid-April.

"Together with the announcement of the new competition we will be announcing a range of measures and protocols to be introduced for the remainder of the season in the interest of protecting and safeguarding our athletes".

While all parties have been reticent to discuss the deal with Sky in detail, it is widely believed that if games are not played then the broadcaster can't be expected to make full payments to NZ Rugby.

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