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Rugby Australia eyes afternoon kick-off for Sydney Test

A midweek Test in Sydney at Accor Stadium was considered but the date has been locked in as a Saturday. Waugh said no decision has been made about the kick-off time, but that the benefit of an afternoon slot was that it allowed families and young kids, who find the 8pm start prohibitive, to attend.

“The narrative I have been trying to push is the connection between the professional game and the community, and I think with the more family-friendly Test matches and professional games so that families and young kids can attend, and the more we open it up to more people, the better it is going to be,” Waugh said.

Jonah Lomu on the rampage in the last day-time Bledisloe Cup in Sydney in 1995.

Jonah Lomu on the rampage in the last day-time Bledisloe Cup in Sydney in 1995.Credit: Dallas Kilponen

“It is certainly something we are exploring, and we are just working through with our partners to make sure it can work. But there will be no club rugby and there will be schools rugby, so it will be a really good opportunity to get our rugby community in a family-friendly environment, at a massive Test match.”

Waugh confirmed the Wallabies’ clash against Georgia at Allianz Stadium on July 20 is also set to be an afternoon kickoff.

The fixture against the world No.14 side has come via World Rugby’s San Francisco agreement in 2017, where SANZAAR nations agreed to reduce Test tours in the July window from three Tests to two in the year after a Rugby World Cup, to assist with player welfare.

It also included a commitment to play a Test match against a tier two nation in the July window, and after early talks with Fiji (who are playing New Zealand in the USA), Rugby Australia – in partnership with World Rugby – will host Georgia at Allianz Stadium on July 20. The world champion Springboks are hosting Portugal and Argentina are playing Uruguay.

Rugby Australia looked at options to play the Test in a major regional centre, but there are NRL games booked in Gosford and Newcastle on the same day.

Given Georgia don’t have an abundance of star names, and are known for scrummaging, the Test will prove a challenge to market, so again Rugby Australia aims to move the game to an afternoon slot to attract families.

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Waugh said RA were talking with Shute Shield and club rugby officials about shifting times and dates of games on the Saturday afternoon. It falls during school holidays, and on a wet weather bye round in subbies rugby.

“We are just trying to work through with the Shute Shield and the clubs on the different timings and make it all work,” Waugh said.

Waugh said Georgia had proved at the Rugby World Cup they were more than just a scrum force.

“They were very competitive against us and look at the game they played against Fiji, they almost beat them, going length of the field,” he said.

“They have been historically a scrummaging and forward-based team but their backs have really come on and we saw that against us. I am not concerned about the attractiveness of the game. I think they have a nicely well-balanced style of play.”

All three episodes of the brand new Stan Original Documentary Series The Wallabies – Inside Rugby World Cup 2023 premiere February 22, only on Stan.

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