They came to Rugby Australia’s rescue once, but World Rugby weren’t able to shift the international window to help the Wallabies for July’s Test series against France.
For months Rugby Australia had been attempting to pin down the dates for July’s Test series against France, but on Friday those fixtures were set in stone.
In a 35-year first, the Wallabies will play midweek Tests to squeeze in three Tests to help ease the financial constraints of the cashed-strapped union.
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Dave Rennie’s men will play three Tests in 11 days, starting on July 7 at the SCG and wrapping up on July 17 at Suncorp Stadium.
“We did try to work with World Rugby to shift the dates, but that was not to be,” Rugby Australia CEO Andy Marinos confirmed on Friday.
The reason for the historic move is because the international window finishes on July 17 and France’s club system holds all the aces in the negotiating table.
To shift the dates, the French TOP 14 would have had to agree to a change in schedule and risk their players’ welfare, who are paid the most globally by private stakeholders, for the international window to be extended.
Nor did the two-week quarantine period for the French squad, who will all be vaccinated before arriving, help Rugby Australia’s bid to have three Tests played over as many weekends.
“We’ve obviously had significant constraints in terms of sticking to the World Rugby dates being 3-10-17 (July) and we didn’t have the ability to shift the reg-9 window later,” Marinos said.
“We would have preferred to have gone 10-17-24, but those dates have been locked in and it’s just a matter of how do we best optimise the calendar with those dates, and notwithstanding the fact we’re going to have to get the French team through quarantine and working with their semi-finals and finals.”
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Regardless, the outcome could prove a blessing in disguise for RA and the Wallabies.
At most World Cups the Wallabies have to backup for Tests a few days later and the fact three Tests will be played against one of the rising powers in the world bodes well.
Furthermore, the short recovery period will force Rennie and his coaching staff to get creative with what they do about selection.
It means fringe players like Fraser McReight, who might have otherwise been stuck behind incumbent captain Michael Hooper, are bound to start.
Unlike the European countries, COVID-19 restricted the Wallabies to just six Tests in 2020 and the Spring Tour, where a handful of players historically are given opportunities against weaker nations like Italy, wasn’t afforded given the difficulties around travel.
“I think we can’t forget in World Cups of the past we’ve also had to deal with four-day turnarounds, so it’s not like it’s never been done before,” Marinos said.
“Is it optimal? No. But we’ve also got to face the reality that it is a COVID-world we’re living in.”
Marinos also confirmed the Springboks and Argentina’s Pumas were both confident of participating in this year’s Rugby Championship, which is hoped to start three weeks after the Wallabies’ final Test against France.
Meanwhile, the RA CEO said the competitiveness of Super Rugby AU had given the governing body something to think about as to whether to keep the competition even when trans-Tasman starts as expected next year.
“It’s only given us something to ponder,” the former Super Rugby boss said.
“I think we’ve been really encouraged by what we’ve seen. The fact we get an Aussie winner every week and the fact we’ve been able to unearth and develop a lot of new talent.
“This is all part of this new era we’re going into.
“But there’s a lot of value in the trans-Tasman and it’s good to give yourself a litmus test against your compatriots across the ditch.
“We’ve got to look at what the whole competition structure is going to look like with the possibility of another two teams joining (before deciding).”
RA and New Zealand Rugby are hoping to have the Super Rugby competition structure settled by the end of June.
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