The Wallabies will play two midweek Tests against France as part of a three match series packed in across 11 days.
The Wallabies will play two midweek Tests against France as Rugby Australia confirmed the details for a three match series to be packed in over 11 days.
French Top 14 club commitments and COVID-19 quarantine realities have combined to produce a condensed schedule that kicks off at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday, July 7.
The second Test will be held at Melbourne’s AAMI Park on Tuesday, July 13 before a potential decider at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on Saturday, July 17.
Concerns over player welfare have been raised because of the tight turnarounds and coaches Dave Rennie and Fabien Galthie are likely to rotate their squads heavily.
While not ideal in a perfect world, Rugby Union Players Association chief executive Justin Harrison gave his blessing considering the harsh realities of 2021.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges across our professional sporting landscape, maintaining a collaborative, pragmatic, solutions-based focus that has enabled the principles of player welfare to be at the forefront of what will continue to be a challenging calendar year of events,” Harrison said.
“Rugby Australia and RUPA will continue to work constructively to maintain player welfare as a priority, and we now look forward to what promises to be a thrilling Test Series against France.”
Of course COVID-19 is sure to throw up further curveballs and RA chief executive Andy Marinos will continue to work closely with his French counterparts, World Rugby and Federal and State government.
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He vowed to help deliver as safe an experience as possible for both the players and hungry Aussie rugby fans.
“As we navigate our way through the ever-changing sporting landscape that we now operate within, we do so with the continued safety of all those involved in these Test matches, along with the communities in which we play, remaining our number one priority,” Marinos said.
“We have enjoyed constructive and engaged discussions with RUPA and the playing group on the international calendar, ensuring that player welfare and high performance outcomes can be optimised.
“We will continue to work with our players to ensure our collective goal of being successful in all we do is realised.
“Rugby Australia, World Rugby and member unions will continue their ongoing dialogue in planning for each Test match event, in line with the advice of the relevant medical authorities, including any possible guidance on domestic and international travel as well as stadium capacities.”
‘Les Bleus’ last toured Australia in 2014, when the Wallabies claimed the series 3-0 and lifted the Trophée des Bicentenaries.
France are ranked fifth in the world – Australia are seventh – and finished second in the Six Nations.
But the Top 14 club final is set for June 26 which means some of France’s finest are likely to be unavailable for at least the first Test given the need for some form of quarantine.
“France are one of the most exciting teams in world rugby – they play with passion, flair and unpredictability and have proven time and time again they are one of the global forces of our game,” Marinos said.
“We have also seen the emergence of our own new next generation of Wallaby players throughout the 2020 international season…
“The return of midweek Test matches presents a unique opportiunity for fans at home and at the venue, with each stadium in a central location for those attending after work.
“One of my fondest memories was at a midweek Test, when the Sydney Football Stadium was packed to the rafters to witness George Gregan’s famous try-saving tackle on All Blacks winger Jeff Wilson.”
France series schedule
Wallabies v France, Wednesday 7 July, 8pm AEST at Sydney Cricket Ground
Wallabies v France, Tuesday 13 July, 8pm AEST at AAMI Park, Melbourne
Wallabies v France, Saturday 17 July, 8pm AEST at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Every Wallabies Test against France will be ad-free, live and on demand with extended coverage on Stan Sport
Every home Wallabies Test will also be live, free-to-air on the Nine Network