All Blacks plan 15 Tests in 2021, Springboks … we’re still not sure

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Assuming no Coivd-19 impact in 2021, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has revealed ambitious plans to play 15 All Blacks Tests next year.

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CEO Mark Robinson provided a glimpse into their proposed 2021 international schedule at a press conference in Wellington on Thursday.

15 TESTS IN THE SPACE OF JUST 6 MONTHS

The All Blacks played just six Tests in 2020 – four against Australia and two against Argentina – due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, NZ Rugby’s proposal could see Ian Foster’s men take the field a whopping 15 times – all within the space of six months.

Robinson said the All Blacks planned to begin the year by hosting Fiji and Italy (twice) in July before playing in the Rugby Championship.

DATES FOR RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP UNCERTAIN

The 2021 Rugby Championship remains clouded in uncertainly – certainly the start date thereof – as the Springboks, should they take part, will be coming off their British & Irish Lions series.

That tour will conclude on August 7.

The last time the Rugby Championship was played as a double-round tournament – in 2018 – it kicked off on August 18.

Should it go ahead, that would mean six more Tests home and away against Argentina, Australia and South Africa.

The All Blacks will also hold a third separate clash against the Wallabies in their Bledisloe Cup series.

As it stands, the All Blacks are scheduled to round out 2021 with Tests against Italy, Ireland and France, but Robinson said NZR was keen to secure an additional two fixtures against northern hemisphere opposition before and after those end-of-year Tests.

SPRINGBOKS HAVEN’T PLAYED IN 13 MONTHS

“The All Blacks’ schedule for 2021 is starting to take shape. We are looking to host, Covid-dependent, Italy and Fiji in July,” Robinson said.

“We are also … hoping to finalise the Rugby Championship schedule as well as Bledisloe Cup and a third Bledisloe for next year.

“We are also looking at opportunities to play games outside of our regulation 9 [international] window in November. At the moment we are due to play Italy, Ireland and France in those three weeks, but we’re looking at games on either shoulder of that fixture list in November or potentially two games before our first game in Europe against Italy.

While New Zealand are at an advanced stage of their planning for 2021, the Springboks are certainly not.

Having not played a single Test since November 2, 2019, all we know for sure is that the Springboks will take on the British & Irish Lions in three Tests in July-August next year.

In recent days, SA Rugby has confirmed end of year Tests against Scotland and England, with a third and final clash still to be announced.

NO TESTS IN LIONS BUILD-UP – YET

Worryingly for many, no Tests in the build-up to the British & Irish Lions’ tour have been penned in.

Italy had been mooted as possible opponents, but that’s now unlikely with New Zealand having confirmed two Tests against the Azzurri.

SA Rugby appear limited to a weakened Argentina side, the USA or Georgia at this stage.

Watch this space!

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