Aussie Super Rugby eyes early re­turn

Kuwait Times - - Sports -

SYD­NEY: Aus­tralia’s Super Rugby com­pe­ti­tion is plan­ning for an early July re­turn, a spokesman said yes­ter­day, af­ter the coro­n­avirus out­break de­railed the sea­son and sparked tur­moil within the sport’s cash-strapped gov­ern­ing body.

Rugby Aus­tralia’s board suf­fered an­other tu­mul­tuous week with new di­rec­tor Peter Wiggs — who had been tipped to take over the chair­man’s role — quit­ting af­ter just five weeks in the job. His de­par­ture fol­lowed the res­ig­na­tion last month of chief ex­ec­u­tive Rae­lene Cas­tle af­ter pres­sure from the board and a sim­mer­ing fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

Clubs are set to be­gin train­ing in the com­ing days un­der strict health reg­u­la­tions aimed at pre­vent­ing the spread of COVID-19 among play­ers, a spokesman said yes­ter­day. “We do not have a con­firmed date for the re­sump­tion of Super Rugby in Aus­tralia, how­ever early July presents a best case sce­nario,” he added.

This year’s Super Rugby com­pe­ti­tion saw seven rounds played be­fore the pan­demic forced a stop to the sea­son in March. The mod­i­fied do­mes­tic fix­ture will not in­clude matches against in­ter­na­tional op­po­nents but will re­port­edly see the re­turn of the Perth-based West­ern Force, which left the top flight com­pe­ti­tion in 2017.

New Zealand has also an­nounced its own do­mes­tic com­pe­ti­tion for its five teams play­ing over 10 rounds in closed sta­di­ums. The COVID-19 shut­down has in­ten­si­fied fi­nan­cial strains on Rugby Aus­tralia, which was al­ready strug­gling af­ter reach­ing a multi-mil­lion dol­lar set­tle­ment with star try-scorer Is­rael Fo­lau over his sack­ing for ho­mo­pho­bic com­ments.

It re­ported a pro­vi­sional Aus$9.4 mil­lion ($6 mil­lion) op­er­at­ing deficit last year and has laid off 75 per­cent of staff to cut costs dur­ing the coro­n­avirus emer­gency. —AFP

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