Four-nation Rugby Championship set to finish in Australia

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — The four-nation Rugby Championship that began in South Africa will conclude in the Australian state of Queensland because of various COVID-19 travel and quarantine restrictions.

Rugby Australia and governing body SANZAAR said Tuesday that four doubleheaders would be played in the Queensland cities of Gold Coast, Townsville and Brisbane in September and early October.

Two matches have been played in the championship in South Africa, where the world champion Springboks and Argentina split their matches.

Rugby Australia will confirm the rescheduled Bledisloe Cup fixture at Optus Stadium in Perth in the next few days. New Zealand has already clinched the Bledisloe Cup for the 19th consecutive year with wins in the first two matches at Auckland’s Eden Park,

“We thought last year was tough when we had to implement a Tri-Nations tournament in Australia with South Africa absent due to the pandemic, but the current disruption caused by the ‘delta variant’ of COVID-19 has seen government authorities tighten up border bio-security measures substantially,” SANZAAR chief executive Brendan Morris said in a statement.

New Zealand was meant to travel to Australia to play the Wallabies in Perth in a second-round match this weekend but pulled out of that fixture and also canceled its two home tests against the Springboks in September and October after new virus cases put the country into lockdown. The New Zealand government also said the South African team wouldn’t be allowed to enter the country.

South Africa was due to play two games in Australia and two in New Zealand, while Argentina also has two games against the Wallabies and two against the All Blacks.

The Springboks and Pumas have both been stranded in South Africa after their weekend match while waiting for word on where the tournament would be completed. Both sides are now expected to arrive in Brisbane on Friday.

The teams will be based at Sanctuary Cove on the Gold Coast during their managed quarantine and will have no contact with hotel workers, contractors and the general public, SANZAAR said.

The Queensland matches are expected to be played in front of limited spectators.

2021 Remainder of Rugby Championship match schedule (times, order of matches to be confirmed):

Sept. 12: Gold Coast: New Zealand vs. Argentina; South Africa vs. Australia.

Sept. 18: Brisbane: Argentina vs. New Zealand; Australia vs South Africa.

Sept. 25: Townsville: Australia vs. Argentina; New Zealand vs. South Africa.

Oct. 2: Gold Coast: Argentina vs. Australia; South Africa vs. New Zealand.