England and Wales are making provisional plans for another staging of the fixture that never fails to sell out – at Twickenham this autumn.
The second Six Nations tournament of the year is being drawn up with the same fixture list as for the hitherto incompleted winter event which means Wales going back to the scene of their defeat in a 63-point thriller three months ago.
Increasing fears that South Africa and Australia will join New Zealand in pulling the plug on their European tours in November are making an emergency re-run of the world’s oldest international competition more likely to fill the autumn vacuum.
In that event, England-Wales would be colliding at Twickenham for the seventh time at Test level in five years – in the World Cup (September 2015), in pre-season (August 2019), at end-of-season (May 2016) and three times in the Six Nations (March 2016, February 2018, March 2020).
No matter how often they play, and the next one will be the 17th at Twickenham and Cardiff during the last ten years, every match is sold out, be it 82,000 at Twickenham or 74,500 at the Principality Stadium.
The problem with the one pencilled in for November arises over the threat of the venue being declared out of bounds to all spectators, a scenario which could render the venture unviable.
“No sport has ever had to contend with an emergency of this magnitude,’’ one powerbroker said. “We can draw up all the contingency plans imaginable but we don’t know whether those matches will have to be played behind closer doors or whether social distancing will allow a limited number.”
The final round of the last Six Nations (France-Ireland in Paris, Italy-England in Rome, Wales-Scotland in Cardiff) is scheduled to be completed on October 31, more than seven months after the abandonment of the original ‘Super Saturday’ on March 14.
New Zealand domestic rugby restarts on Saturday (June 13), a ten-round competition featuring the country’s five Super Rugby franchises, all behind closed doors. Australia’s quartet plan to kick-off their truncated version on July 3.
The extent of the Wallabies’ plight has prompted Dave Rennie to take a voluntary 30 per cent cut in pay, before he has had time to start work as head coach. The 56-year-old New Zealander’s offer to make the reduction over the same three-month period as other employees will reduce the wage bill by around £40,000.