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Wales tour to face All Blacks in two Tests set to be axed

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac

Wales are resigned to their summer Tests in Japan and New Zealand being wiped out as part of the financial crisis enveloping the global game.

The expected abandonment of the tour will cost the unions concerned millions in lost revenue. It will also leave Wales without an international fixture for at least six months, their longest period between matches since the sport went professional 25 years ago.

Sources have told The Rugby Paper that the Covid-19 emergency could force a decision within the next fortnight to call off the three Tests scheduled for successive weeks, Japan in Shizouka on June 27, the All Blacks in Auckland on July 4 and again in Wellington seven days later.

Similar decisions are due to be made on England’s tour of Japan and Scotland’s visit to New Zealand. The Wallabies have already acknowledged that their two-Test home series against Ireland is increasingly likely to be cancelled with the passing of each day.

Wales have issued their self-isolating players with individual fitness programmes but their management has not set any date for a pre-tour squad meeting during the coming weeks on the basis that there won’t be a tour.

In that event Wales will have to wait until October at the earliest for their first match in seven months, since losing to England at Twickenham four weeks ago.

“The worldwide emergency is so great that nobody knows when anyone will be able to tour again,’’ a leading administrator said. “Nobody would be surprised if the autumn tours to Europe by the Springboks, All Blacks, Wallabies, Pumas and various Tier 2 countries don’t happen.’’

New Zealand RU chief executive Mark Robinson has already flagged up that possibility – “the absolute worst-case scenario, if we weren’t able to get on the field this year”.

The All Blacks have six home fixtures this summer, starting with Wales at Eden Park and finishing with the Springboks at the same venue two months later in September.

Robinson estimates that those matches falling victim to the pandemic would cost New Zealand rugby almost £50m.

The RFU fears losses on a similar scale knowing that it will probably get a whole lot worse before it gets better. The southern hemisphere have warned that they may need November to be left clear for the completion of the Rugby Championship, due to start in August.

New Zealand closed their borders a fortnight ago amid an increasing likelihood that their national state of emergency will go on indefinitely. The NZ Government says it will keep the country ‘or parts of it’ in lockdown ‘for as long as possible to stamp out the virus’.

World Rugby is understood to be in the throes of drawing up contingency plans for an alternative global calendar on the basis that no international rugby is likely to be played before September.

The Six Nations are still unable to say when their ‘Super Saturday’ will be played following its postponement three weeks ago. They hope to rearrange the three matches – Italy-England, France-Ireland, Wales-Scotland – in October.

PETER JACKSON

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