RUGBY NEWS - Southern hemisphere rugby body SANZAAR shot down reports that Australia and New Zealand would shift to organising trans-Tasman games after the coronavirus crisis, criticising "misleading information and speculation" on Monday.
Talk has been circulating about possible trans-Tasman fixtures after neighbours New Zealand and Australia, which have both seen significant drops in new infections, started easing strict lockdown rules.
SANZAAR, which groups South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, and administers the Rugby Championship Test series and the Super Rugby club tournament, said none of the member nations had agreed on any new competition formats.
"Having spoken with my SANZAAR board members, I can confirm that none of the suggested models or structures that have been commented on recently, such as standalone Trans-Tasman formats, have been agreed by any of the SANZAAR unions individually or collectively," SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos said in a statement.
"All such reports are merely speculative and have no basis to them."
On Tuesday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will join an Australian leaders' meeting to discuss establishing a "trans-Tasman bubble" that allows them to lift bilateral coronavirus travel bans.
However, SANZAAR said its members would have to agree on any changes, adding that a 14-team Super Rugby competition and a four-nation Rugby Championship had already been sold to broadcasters from next year.
"Any changes to the Super Rugby structure this year and into the future are matters that are currently being discussed in detail by all the joint-venture, national union stakeholders: Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa," the statement said.
"The stakeholders are all committed to the joint-venture through to 2030 and once consensus is agreed upon by all the stakeholders it will then be communicated by the SANZAAR board."
SANZAAR said this year's Super Rugby competition is likely to have "a strong domestic focus in each territory given the travel, border and government restrictions that we believe we will have to adhere to".
Marinos added that SANZAAR is having "realistic discussions on what may have to eventuate should COVID-19 restrictions continue beyond 2020".
"We are presently looking in detail at various competition formats but any agreed format will include teams from all four stakeholder national unions," he said.