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The New Zealand Herald was told this morning that New South Wales had pinched the four-nation tournament from New Zealand and it will be hosted from November 7.
New Zealand, nominated in July as preferred host, lost out to its trans-Tasman neighbour after a recent outbreak of Covid-19 in Auckland which triggered a fresh social distancing clampdown.
The news was confirmed this afternoon by Sanzaar, which oversees Super Rugby and The Rugby Championship competitions.
In a statement, it said Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina would participate in a six-week, 12-match tournament from November 7-December 12.
"Traditionally the Rugby Championship is played as an international, cross-border series of home and away matches between Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, but due to the pandemic this is obviously not possible this year,” Sanzaar chief executive Andy Marinos said.
"We have, therefore, worked very hard as a group to ensure TRC takes place this year, albeit in one country, and Sanzaar was meticulous in assessing the two options for hosting presented to it by New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia."
The tournament was moved from its traditional August-September window due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, with Sanzaar later tentatively nominating New Zealand as sole host.
Australia is believed to have secured the tournament on the basis of having superior quarantine regulations in regards to allowing teams to train while in isolation.
Australian federal and state governments are also thought to have stumped up to lure the tournament away from New Zealand.
"We're obviously disappointed at the decision to not have New Zealand host the tournament, but we understand and accept it," New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson said today.
"We worked incredibly hard behind the scenes with a whole range of stakeholders, including SANZAAR and the New Zealand Government, to ensure we were ready and able to host the Championship and we felt we were. We'd like to thank everyone involved for working so hard on the planning to have the tournament here."
"Those two matches (in New Zealand) will be massive for our fans and the All Blacks. We know that the Bledisloe Cup is the pinnacle of trans-Tasman rivalry and there will be huge anticipation ahead of those matches."
New Zealand will instead host two non-Rugby Championship matches against Australia in October as part of the annual Bledisloe Cup series contested between the trans-Tasman Sea neighbours.
New Zealand Rugby is yet to announce dates or venues for those matches.
The All Blacks would then venture to Australia for the Rugby Championship.
South Africa's participation is yet to be confirmed, though, with international sporting competition suspended there due to the pandemic.
"The Springboks’ participation will be dependent on the relaxation of that suspension as well as overcoming a number of other logistical challenges including the opening of international air borders," Sanzaar's Marinos said.
"South Africa is only expected to return to competitive play next month, leaving a relatively short time to prepare."
Each nation will be permitted bumper squads of 46 players and 12 staff, with the visiting teams allowed to train at biosecure facilities while passing Australia's mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival.
'A real blow for the whole town': Queenstown mayor
Queenstown Lakes mayor Jim Boult said he was "gutted" to get the news this morning.
He understood the decision to move the tournament to Australia was "purely financial" and was unaware of any concerns around quarantine and training for teams in Queenstown.
The proposal in the resort included "pop-up gyms" in hotels for players and a designated rugby ground - to which no one else would have had access to - for teams to train.
"The whole thing was lined up like a little Swiss watch, Boult said.
"Unfortunately, it's simply money that's caused it to go away.
"I'm gutted ... the fact that the tour has gone to Australia is just a real blow for the whole town - not only was it good economically, it was just a feel-good thing to be happening in town as well."
Ardern says Government not to blame
When asked about the reports that Australia had secured the Rugby Championship before the official announcement, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government had put in extensive work to secure the tournament.
"We put in a huge amount of effort into that bid, worked really hard to accommodate the needs of the tournament and the players, even creating a regime where they could be training within three days of arrival in New Zealand," she said today.
"If we are not successful, I'd say it would be a result of being caught up in Sanzaar politics.
"The arrangements that we proposed as part of the bid did include training while in quarantine. We worked very hard with [Ministry of] Health and the tournament organisers to make it work in a way that looked after people's health and didn't jeopardise the tournament. It would mean they would've been able to train within three days of arrival."
Ardern also backed the training facilities set to be used.
"New Zealand has very successfully hosted tournaments of this nature on a larger scale before," she said. "And I have every confidence that actually the facilities that we were proposing were up to scratch and the ability to train within three days of arrival was also an important part of that pitch."
- additional reporting Tracey Roxburgh and Reuters