Rugby Australia is in discussions with New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina about establishing a hub in Australia for a condensed version of the Rugby Championship competition this year. RA is also seeking to lock in an expanded four-Test Bledisloe Cup series against the All Blacks.
Interim CEO Rob Clarke on Tuesday foreshadowed further cuts and efficiencies to follow Monday’s announcement that a third of the beleaguered national body’s full-time staff will lose their jobs over the coming months. But he said they were “prudent” moves to stabilise the code’s finances as they prepared for a domestic competition to return on 3 July.
Clarke said RA had been talking to the federal government about conditions that would allow the four-nation Rugby Championship Test tournament to be played here this year, overcoming travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re exploring with the Australian government whether that can be a bubble here in Australia and we fly in all of the Sanzaar partners and they are in a training bubble and then we can quarantine effectively and play a competition,” he said.
A touted four-Test Bledisloe Cup series, with two Tests to be played in Australia, would also help RA’s bottom line after they initially predicted a $120m revenue hit if no further play was possible this year.
“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.
The interim chief executive said every RA department had been reviewed and impacted by the cuts that will see 47 of 142 full-time staff lose their jobs and a further 30 contractors and casuals terminated. But, with new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie to arrive in July, he said the high performance program would be “protected”.
“That’s going to help to get the Wallabies back to where they need to get to as far as a world ranking,” he said. “A key part of our financial underpinning is a successful Wallabies. It’s not everything, but it’s certainly key so we’ll be protecting that as much as possible.”