The Australian state of Queensland is set to host almost all the remaining matches from rugby union’s Rugby Championship – the national teams competition between heavyweight southern hemisphere nations – after Covid-19 outbreaks have necessitated significant changes to the schedule.

The remainder of the championship, which features Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, will mostly take place across three venues in the state (Townsville, Brisbane and Gold Coast), with only one game out of the nine scheduled to be held outside of Queensland. 

Several sets of games that were due to be held in New Zealand have been switched to Queensland, as a sudden Covid outbreak in the former host country (the first positive cases in six months as the Delta variant starts to spread) meant games have had to be relocated at the last minute.

Almost all the Australian states are also under lockdown, however, following the swift spread of the Delta variant, meaning Queensland has ended up as the default host, as it is the one Australian state not currently in a Covid-related lockdown.

The four sets of fixtures will be held over consecutive weekends from mid-September to early October, with the Rugby Championship having kicked off earlier this month as New Zealand beat Australia in Auckland. 

All games, due to the relocation of matches and the subsequent fixture congestion, will take place as double-headers.

Brendan Morris, chief executive of tournament organisers Sanzaar, the sport’s southern hemisphere governing body, has said: “We thought last year was tough when we had to implement a Tri-Nations tournament in Australia with South Africa absent due to the pandemic…

“But the current disruption caused by the Delta variant has seen government authorities tighten up border biosecurity measures substantially.”

Morris added that his organisation “had no option but to basically move the remainder of the Rugby Championship to Queensland.”