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Sport

SANZAAR confirm earlier start for Rugby Championship

(Reuters) - Hosts Rugby Australia (RU) and organisers SANZAAR have revealed a revised schedule for the 2020 Rugby Championship after bowing to pressure from New Zealand Rugby (NZR), with the competition now to kick off a week earlier.

Australia’s clash with New Zealand that was scheduled for Dec. 12 will be played on Oct. 31 after the NZR objected to the original date as it meant their players would have to spend Christmas in quarantine due to the country’s strict COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The initial fixture list saw the competition start on Nov. 7.

The row over the scheduling had soured relations between New Zealand and Australia, RU chairperson Hamish McLennan admitted this week, though NZR CEO Mark Robinson adopted a more conciliatory tone in a statement on Thursday.

“We’d like to thank our colleagues at SANZAAR and Rugby Australia for the time and effort that has gone into finalising a schedule that is workable for all,” he said.

“It is great news that we now have certainty on the draw and we’re really excited about the fantastic rugby to come.”

The pair are scheduled to play two Bledisloe Cup tests before the start of the competition, the first on Sunday followed by another clash on Oct. 18

All matches involving Argentina and world champions South Africa will remain as scheduled, and the pair will now close out the competition on Dec. 12 at Newcastle’s McDonald Jones Stadium.

South African Rugby have still yet to officially confirm their participation though as worries over a lack of preparation time and player welfare persist, with the country’s domestic competition only set to start this weekend.

Australia was chosen to host the entire Southern Hemisphere championship this year. Argentina have already arrived in the country to start their preparations this week.

Revised Rugby Championship schedule:

Oct. 31, Sydney

Australia v New Zealand

Nov. 7, Brisbane

Argentina v South Africa

Australia v New Zealand

Nov. 14, Sydney

New Zealand v Argentina

South Africa v Australia

Nov. 21, Sydney

New Zealand v South Africa

Australia v Argentina

Nov. 28, Newcastle

Argentina v Australia

South Africa v New Zealand

Dec. 5, Sydney

Argentina v New Zealand

Australia v South Africa

Dec. 12, Newcastle

South Africa v Argentina

Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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