Rugby Union

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RA seeks Rugby Championship hub in Aust

Rugby Australia wants to establish a quarantine hub which enables it to exclusively host the Rugby Championship if the tournament is staged during the coronavirus pandemic.

RA is in discussions with the federal government plus rival nations New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina with a view to holding a condensed version of the event this year.

Interim CEO Rob Clarke is also seeking to lock in an expanded four-Test Bledisloe Cup series with the All Blacks.

Clarke also foreshadowed further cuts to follow Monday's announcement that a third of the beleaguered national body's fulltime staff will lose their jobs over the coming months.

He said they were "prudent" moves to stabilise the code's finances as they prepared for a domestic competition to return on July 3.

Clarke stressed the importance of safeguarding future funding for the Wallabies and confirmed new coach Dave Rennie won't be required to take a five per cent pay cut required of other senior staff members.

He said his top priority is to start games again, with a five-team domestic Super rugby tournament set to begin next month, pending approval from broadcasters.

That competition would run into September after which RA is looking at scheduling the Bledisloe Cup and a Rugby Championship, which was originally planned to start in August.

"We're exploring whether there can be a 'bubble' here in Australia and we fly in all of the SANZAAR partners," Clarke said.

"They (could be) in a training bubble and then we can quarantine effectively and play a competition."

He said a four-Test Bledisloe Cup series, with two matches played in Australia, would also boost RA's finances after they initially predicted a $120 million revenue hit if no further play was possible in 2020.

"It's a great product, gains a lot of attention and we feel at least a four-game series is something we can work into the calendar this year to work for them and us," Clarke said.

In regard to cost-cutting, Clarke said every RA department had been reviewed, leading to 47 of the 142 fulltime staff losing their jobs.

A further 30 contractors and casual employees would also be terminated.

Clarke explained incoming Wallabies coach Rennie was exempt from taking a pay cut as he had not yet started the role while the RA high performance program would be "protected" to enhance the flagship team.

"A key part of our financial underpinning is a successful Wallabies," he said.

"It's not everything, but it's certainly key so we'll be protecting that as much as possible."

Clarke, who is also seeking to seal a new broadcasting deal for 2021 and beyond, confirmed the domestic National Rugby Championship will not be played this year given Australia's Super Rugby competition and Test rugby takes precedence in a revised calendar.

Super Rugby teams will also be asked to me more efficient as the code grapples with the effects of COVID-19.

"We want to see how we can work smarter to ensure resources are aligned rather than duplicated," Clarke said.

--End of article--

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