Rugby Australia says Ireland Tests 'highly unlikely'

Sydney (AFP) –


Rugby Australia admitted Monday that July's Tests against Ireland were looking "highly unlikely" while expressing confidence that all four of the country's Super Rugby teams could survive the coronavirus shutdown.

The Wallabies are due to face the Irish in Brisbane on July 4 and then at Sydney a week later, before they take on Fiji in Townsville later in the month.

But all three games are in serious doubt with Australia's borders currently closed to everyone but citizens and permanent residents to combat the spread of COVID-19.

"The July Test matches are looking less and less likely as the days go by," said Rugby Australia chief Raelene Castle. "But that will ultimately be a decision made in consultation with World Rugby.

"There will be conversations that will happen from a World Rugby point of view so we can think about if July doesn't go ahead, which obviously seems highly unlikely now, whether there is football available at the back end of this year."

If new slots in the calendar could be found later in the year, she suggested the Wallabies could travel to Ireland instead to play the games.

Rugby has ground to a halt in Australia, and elsewhere around the world, with the southern hemisphere Super Rugby competition suspended.

Plans for a domestic Australian tournament to fill the void have also been shelved due to the pandemic, depriving clubs of much-needed ticket sales and broadcast money.

How to get through the turmoil is still being thrashed out, but Castle said she expected all four teams -- ACT Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels, NSW Waratahs and Queensland Reds -- to survive.

"At the moment we have contracts in place around delivering a Super Rugby structure with four Super Rugby teams and that's the model we will be working to," she said.

"But it would be crazy for us not to be thinking of other scenarios that might roll out," Castle added.