Rugby-New Zealand travel ban puts Bledisloe Cup, Rugby Championship in doubt

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - New Zealand's decision to suspend quarantine-free travel with Australia due to COVID-19 has thrown next month's Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship in doubt.

New Zealand will pause its "travel bubble" with Australia for at least eight weeks from Friday night, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, as Australia fights an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta virus variant.

The Wallabies are due to play the Bledisloe Cup opener against the All Blacks at Eden Park on Aug. 7 but would need to quarantine for two weeks upon arriving in New Zealand.

The second Bledisloe Cup test at Perth Stadium, which doubles as the Rugby Championship's opener, follows on Aug. 21.

The third and final Australia-New Zealand clash in Wellington on Aug. 28 also appears in jeopardy.

South Africa and Argentina are scheduled to tour the trans-Tasman countries for Rugby Championship matches in September.

Australia hosted the entire Rugby Championship without South Africa last year, rebranding it the Tri-Nations, and organisers may be forced to find a similar one-country solution to save the test schedule.

Rugby Australia did not provide an immediate comment.

New Zealand had already paused the "travel bubble" for travellers to and from Australia's New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia states.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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