A proposal that could see the All Blacks home with their families for Christmas has been tabled to avoid an ugly Rugby Championship scheduling stoush, but New Zealand Rugby may be forced to foot some of the bill if the final match between the Wallabies and All Blacks on December 12 has to be moved.
When Sanzaar announced last month the Rugby Championship would take place in Australia from November 7 to December 12, in the form of six double-headers featuring the Wallabies, All Blacks, Springboks and Pumas, NZR released a statement within minutes saying it had not agreed to the fixtures.
The sticking point was the date of the final match, set to take place at ANZ Stadium in what also doubles as one of four Bledisloe Cup games this year.
There has been no shortage of disagreements about who agreed to what and when, and the trans-Tasman rugby politics culminated in Australia, New Zealand and Sanzaar agreeing to work towards a solution in order to prevent a potential boycott of the match.
It got to the point that RA chairman Hamish McLennan said the relationship between the countries was at its “lowest ebb”.
Sources with knowledge of the negotiations have told the Sydney Morning Herald that an option is on the table to move what would have been the final game to Saturday, October 31, six weeks earlier than scheduled.
It means the Wallabies would have to face the All Blacks in four straight matches – two in New Zealand and two in Australia – across five weekends.
NZR is keen for the switch but multiple factors – not least of which are commercial and logistical considerations – will need to be considered by Sanzaar and RA before a green light can be given.
Furthermore, the only way the match could be played on October 31 is if a travel bubble with New Zealand is approved. That could come into effect on October 16, but there has been no official confirmation.
If the travel bubble is approved, New Zealand could come to Australia after two Bledisloe matches on home soil, the last of which is on October 18, and not be forced into a two-week quarantine period, therefore allowing a test to be played on the last day of October.
If the bubble does not happen, the Rugby Championship cannot begin until November 7.
Even if the game is moved to October 31, it might come at a cost to New Zealand. All four unions have agreed to split revenue from the Rugby Championship, given Australia is hosting due to Covid-19, and if the cost of moving the match impacts the overall bottom line, New Zealand might be forced to make up the difference. For example, under the new proposal, there would only be five double-headers instead of six.
The final round, on December 12, would only feature a game between South Africa and Argentina at ANZ Stadium, one that isn’t tipped to attract a big crowd or eyeballs on television without Australia playing New Zealand afterwards.
The Springboks-Pumas game cannot be switched to the beginning of the Rugby Championship because of the teams’ limited preparation for the tournament and a test on October 31 would fall outside World Rugby’s window whereby clubs have to release international players.
NZR, which rejected Australia’s request for a five-week Rugby Championship when it was set to be held in New Zealand, has made it clear it wants the All Blacks home for Christmas.
If administrators agree profits from the tournament will be diminished because of New Zealand’s insistence on the game be moved, the Kiwis may have to settle for a reduced slice of the financial pie.
By the same token, RA and Sanzaar may see value in a one-off crowd being able to watch a third Bledisloe match of the year on October 31.
If a two-way trans-Tasman bubble does come to fruition, the Kiwis would be able to return home after a December 12 game and not have to self-isolate for 14 days.
RA wanted to begin selling tickets this week, but the latest scheduling dilemma has put that on the back-burner.
This content was originally published here.