SANZAAR nations 'extremely committed' to 2020 Rugby Championship

All four SANZAAR partners remain "extremely committed" to delivering a Rugby Championship tournament later this year, according to Rugby Australia high performance manager Ben Whitaker.

Whitaker spoke with Australian reporters on Monday evening, discussing both Australia's plans for a domestic Super Rugby competition and just what the likelihood was of any Test rugby being played amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Certainly the July Test series, in which Australia was to host both Ireland and Fiji will be canceled - though no official announcement has yet been made - but Whitaker remains hopeful that the international game could take centre stage in a bumper finish to 2020.

"You can imagine at SANZAAR it's a weekly discussion, to look at what can be put in place this year," Whitaker said. "All the nations are extremely committed to having a TRC [Rugby Championship] in place in some form, and willing to play late into the year.

"The other things that we need to consider and haven't yet got any formal indication of is whether the July Tests have moved to October and also the ability for us to go north in November. So you can imagine that we'd almost need another three months in the year as we get squeezed a little bit.

"But there all topics that are discussed on a daily basis to make sure that we're set up to deliver as much Test rugby as we can this year pending circumstance.

"I think the discussions with our [Australian] government and the New Zealand Government gives us real optimism that we'll be able to play Tests against New Zealand this year but it also hopefully opens up the opportunity later in the year to invite our other SANZAAR nations to come into either Australia or New Zealand to play.

"So they're the sort of things we continue to model to make sure we're set up and ready to go."

Perth was last month mentioned as a potential host of a one-city Rugby Championship, while the Australian Government has already made an allowance for the National Rugby League outfit, New Zealand Warriors, to entre Australia so that that competition may be restarted.

The Warriors flew directly to the New South Wales country town of Tamworth for a two-week quarantine period and have been isolated from the rest of the town's citizens.

It would likely have to be a similar scenario in either Australia or New Zealand if the Rugby Championship was to proceed, but first travel restrictions put in place in both Argentina and South Africa would also need to be lifted.

"A couple of things that have happened in the last few weeks...the international travel restrictions in South Africa and Argentina have been strengthened in the last couple of weeks and you'll see that both of those nations at least won't have any restrictions lifted until September," Whitaker added. "And we had indications of that early [on] but then once it became certain, then we needed to change some of our modeling around when TRC matches could be played."

The Rugby Championship would have usually begun in early August and had run through to the first week of October. But with the coronavirus pandemic still rampant across the globe, the tournament could be pushed back into November, which, if circumstances allow, could then see the southern hemisphere nations travel north for their slated spring tours.

Asked about Whitaker's comments, a South Africa Rugby Union spokesperson told ESPN: "Every nation wants to resume Test rugby and we've considered a number of scenarios and have not ruled out any possibilities."

Whether any international rugby is played in 2020 remains to be seen, but both New Zealand and Australia are closing in on some domestic play. New Zealand's Aotearoa Super Rugby competition will start on June 13 while Whitaker confirmed Rugby Australia was still working through various models but that a kickoff in early July was the goal.

The Western Force are all but a confirmed starter, while the Sunwolves could also yet be included, Whitaker said.

"We're looking at a 12-week competition, so 10 weeks or regular-round matches, and depending on the number of teams, then you can work out how many games are [played] per week there. The Sunwolves, at the moment, would be based in either New South Wales or Queensland."