With Super Rugby Australia kicking off tonight with a match between the fiercest of Aussie rivals the Reds and Waratahs in Brisbane, the not insignificant matter of the Bledisloe Cup series could become an even bigger area of focus.
Or, to get to the nub of the matter, the test venues probably will be. And given the recent Covid-19 surge in Melbourne, one of the cities slated for a match this year, and restrictions on crowd sizes that remain in Australia, isn't it time to plan on the basis that all Bledisloe Cup tests will be played in New Zealand this year?
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The New Zealand and Australian unions, both in deep financial holes due to the pandemic, had hoped for two tests on either side of the Tasman, but that's not going to happen if the Aussies aren't allowed to fill their stadiums due to government restrictions.
Going by the popularity of Super Rugby Aotearoa, and the astonishing sight of 43,000 at Eden Park to watch the Blues in game one, New Zealand can and will. On that basis, all four tests should be played here and the revenue shared. (I'd suggest Wellington's Sky Stadium, Eden Park, Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium and back to Eden Park or North Harbour Stadium).
It's not simply a financial imperative, there's also the matter of player and public safety. And yes, time is important, because Super Rugby Australia, which also features the Western Force, Melbourne Rebels and Brumbies, is a 12-week competition which will finish on the weekend of September 26-27. That is two weeks from October 10, the date that new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has suggested will be the first test between the nations.
Two weeks is also the minimum quarantine time for new arrivals here, a state of affairs that unfortunately is our new reality. The other questions currently being considered behind the scenes are: Could the Wallabies serve their two-week quarantine in Australia? (Probably doubtful). And could they train while quarantining here in New Zealand? (Probably a non-negotiable).
A four-test tour of New Zealand, while potentially great news for All Blacks supporters (at the expense of their Wallabies counterparts, although more on that shortly), could come with other issues and in particular how to deal with injury replacements.
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Given the 14-day quarantine stand-down, bringing a player in from Australia will obviously be highly problematic, so Rennie might have to bring in a big squad and probably hope for the best, factors which may or may not count against possible mid-week games against Mitre 10 Cup teams.
It's a difficult equation. A bloated squad plus a lack of game time equals possible discord. Give everyone game time via matches against Northland or Waikato (the latter a particularly tasty prospect given Rennie's close links with the area and two titles with the Chiefs), and risk more injuries.
And yet, let's look on the bright side. The coronavirus punted the unloved and unwieldy Super Rugby competition featuring five disparate nations into touch while giving Kiwi punters what they want: intense derbies only – a bit like the old days when the national provincial competition was in the ascendant.
The same may apply for Australian fans as they prepare to watch their new competition, and while it could be a wrench for many of them to miss seeing their beloved Wallabies play live, how good would it be to see a proper, long, international tour again? It would be just like the old days.