Kiwis could come to rescue with Bledisloe spectacular
A FOUR-MATCH Bledisloe Cup series played entirely in New Zealand is being explored by rugby officials seeking to inject much-needed funds into a game crippled by COVID-19.
With New Zealand leading the world in its battle against the coronavirus pandemic, their government believes there is a chance of having crowds attending games by October.
Rugby Australia is hopeful games with live crowds can be hosted here, too, but Australia may have a lag behind the Kiwis, and all football codes are planning on playing behind closed doors for the medium term.
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Having four games with live gate-takings to share is an appealing prospect for RA, who are facing debts of millions of dollars due to cancelled matches.
There is still the option of playing two games each in Australia and New Zealand, but if it's a choice of hosting games in empty stadiums, or the Wallabies giving up home ground advantage to the All Blacks for much-needed money out of ticket sales, it's understood RA would opt for the latter.
The development comes as World Rugby officially postponed all the scheduled July Test matches - including Australia's home games against Ireland and Fiji - but loaned Rugby Australia $14.2 million on Friday to help their dire financial situation.
The low-interest long-term loan will keep RA afloat in coming months, but they desperately need to secure a broadcast deal for 2021 and beyond to fortify their future.
Playing a key role in that will be REA Group chairman and former Network Ten boss Hamish McLennan, who was appointed as RA's chairman-elect on Friday, to start on June 15.
McLennan and interim chief executive Rob Clarke will lead the game's strategy to climb back from the brink, requiring a new broadcast deal and a united package that will bring new fans to rugby.
"The Wallabies are an iconic team and rugby has a rich DNA, and I wanted to do my part to get it back to centre stage, and hopefully instil a winning culture and do my bit for the broader rugby community," McLennan said.
"The next 18 months to two years will be very lean, but there's a great tour coming in 2025 with the British & Irish Lions that I think will have the entire country excited."
Clarke, who took over last week after Raelene Castle resigned, said the World Rugby money gives his organisation stability for the next year.
"The financial implications of the virus have been significant for Rugby Australia and this emergency relief funding will provide us with certainty for the next twelve months and enable us to close off our 2019 accounts," Clarke said.
"The funding, in combination with the extensive cuts made across the business, provides us with the short-term impetus to see through the pandemic but does not solve all of the challenges.
"The board is continuing to work through its plans for organisational reform and additionally there are key conversations to be had across the game's stakeholders about our rugby offering for 2020 and beyond.
"The World Rugby funding provides a much-needed boost and a level of security as we continue this important work."