The Rugby Championship is considering an unprecedented mid-tournament switch to Europe as part of contingency planning to ensure its fixture list can be played in its entirety, Telegraph Sport understands.
Large parts of Australia, as well as the whole of New Zealand, are currently under strict coronavirus lockdown restrictions, while the Western Australia state, where the Wallabies are scheduled to face the All Blacks on August 28, has imposed a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals from New Zealand. There are doubts, therefore, that the match will be able to take place as planned in the city of Perth next Saturday.
With the Covid situation worsening in both countries - Sydney and the rest of New South Wales has been in lockdown for nine weeks, with no imminent loosening of restrictions planned - Sanzaar has taken the step of reviewing switching the remainder of the southern hemisphere's premier rugby tournament to the UK, Ireland and France.
The Rugby Championship has only played a match outside of the four participating nations once, when Australia defeated Argentina at Twickenham in 2016.
Among possible venues are the Stade de France, Twickenham, the Aviva Stadium and the Principality Stadium, all of which would expect to host fans under the respective countries' current coronavirus regulations. The potential switch is likely to be well received by the prospective hosts, who all lost significant chunks of revenue over the past 12 months as a result of staging matches behind closed doors.
On the potential switch, an RFU spokesperson said: "The RFU is always open to discussion regarding the global calendar and we are aware of the challenges facing The Rugby Championship at the moment, much further consultation is required around player welfare and potential organisational and commercial impacts for all Unions therefore it is too early to speculate on any developments."
Telegraph Sport understands the move is under serious consideration among Sanzaar unions, but the Covid landscape down under means that the situation is in a constant state of flux. Indeed, several logistical headaches remain and, unless the fixtures were to be played solely in France and Ireland, some form of exemption would be required from the UK Government.
South Africa is currently on the UK's travel red list, meaning only British and Irish nationals and residents are permitted entry, even with a vaccine. And, although Australia and New Zealand are on the green list, the two countries' borders have been closed, even to nationals and residents, since the start of the pandemic, meaning an exemption would be required for the players to return home.
The 2021 Rugby Championship is currently scheduled to finish in early October and the Northern Hemisphere's autumn internationals begin at the end of that month, with Wales hosting the All Blacks in Cardiff on Saturday October 30.
The two matches' proximity in the calendar might make switching the Rugby Championship to Europe seem sensible, but it would mean that Australia, New Zealand and Argentina would have to go as long as five months without seeing their families. South Africa, too, have been in their Covid bubble since before the British and Irish Lions series at the end of June, meaning they would have spent almost half the year in a Covid-restricted camp.
Other reported possibilities in Sanzaar's contingency planning are a move to South Africa - where fixtures would have to take place without fans - or Queensland, the eastern Australia state which recorded zero new Covid community cases on Wednesday.
The issue, however, with a move to the east of the country is finding stadiums that are big enough to host the matches on consecutive weekends in the middle of the Australian Football League and National Rugby League seasons.
Professor Denis Kinane, the founding scientist of Cignpost Diagnostics, the company which has overseen Covid testing and bubbles at Twickenham, Wimbledon and the PGA European Tour as well as BBC and Netflix productions, believes the plan is feasible from a medical standpoint.
"It wouldn't be a problem - we saw at the Euros that we can do it," Prof Kinane told Telegraph Sport. "These teams usually charter planes and get tested before and after, and we support them with PCR. There is no problem for the teams to come, that can be safeguarded easily.
"What we would do is take over a specific hotel, and the drivers and hotel staff would all be tested prior to the players coming over. They would be tested twice weekly and the players and families would be kept separate from the public. So, there are ways of doing these things."