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Ireland's summer tour of Australia postponed due to coronavirus restrictions


Ireland will not be travelling to Australia this summer

Ireland will not be travelling to Australia this summer

©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Ireland will not be travelling to Australia this summer

As expected, Ireland's summer tour of Australia in July will now not take place as a result of the restrictions in place brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

World Rugby has cancelled the entire international window as a result of extended travel and quarantine restrictions across the globe.

Ireland were scheduled to take on the Wallabies twice at the end of the season, but the matches have long since looked doomed pending a decision on the entire window from the game's governing body.

Wales were supposed to travel to New Zealand, England to Japan and now the challenge is finding a way to play those games later in the year to try and recoup lost revenues if possible and, strikingly, World Rugby say the games are postponed rather than cancelled.

"All parties, including member unions, international competitions, professional club competitions and International Rugby Players, will be involved in the continued evaluation of potential contingency options with a view to achieving an aligned calendar for the remainder of the year," a World Rugby statement said.

"All decision-making will be entirely contingent on national government travel, quarantine and health advice and important player welfare and hosting considerations in line with return-to-rugby guidance recently published by World Rugby."

Rescheduling the matches will be difficult given the likelihood that some form of restrictions are likely to remain in place for the rest of 2020 at least, while there is a growing number of unplayed fixtures that clubs and unions want to play during a small number of available weekends.

IRFU performance director David Nucifora said the union remains committed to working with World Rugby on finding solutions for a return to action.

"While it is disappointing that the summer tour to Australia will not go ahead as scheduled, it will not be a surprise to many as it is clear that COVID-19 will have implications for our game for some time to come," the Australian said.

"We continue to work with World Rugby, our fellow unions and our players and their representative body, Rugby Players Ireland, to develop a road-map for the return of our game.

"In the meantime we have, in conjunction with the provinces, provided players with programmes to ensure that they remain in condition for when we get a green light to return to training."

The union will dial into a meeting with government today to get an update on when that can happen, with rugby scheduled to be allowed to resume as part of stage five of the government's road-map for easing restrictions. That is planned for August 10, but could change depending on the situation.

They hope to bring players back to training in small groups, before growing those numbers over the summer and then playing matches straight away when allowed.

It appears most likely that they will return with a summer inter-provincial tournament played behind closed doors at the Aviva Stadium and then, if restrictions have eased sufficiently, they will hope to finish the PRO14, Heineken Champions Cup and Six Nations.

Whether they can get to Australia, quarantine and play two matches remains to be seen, but equally their home fixtures against the Wallabies, South Africa and Japan are in jeopardy for the same reasons.

World Rugby will continue to host calls to try and find solutions to these questions, having published their guidelines for a return to play last week.

The loss of the tour is a big financial blow to the cash-strapped Australian union who have been embroiled in a series of crises since the pandemic struck.

"The postponement of the July international window was always a reality given the ongoing travel restrictions and health directives across the globe," interim chief executive Rob Clarke said.

"This was an outcome we were anticipating, and we are planning accordingly to host the fixtures later in the year, if possible, and will continue to work with World Rugby to identify a new window within the international calendar to stage the matches."