Broadcast deal allows Super Rugby AU to kick off on July 3

SYDNEY (AP) — A 12-week, five-team domestic tournament kicking off July 3 has been confirmed to fill Australia’s Super Rugby void after organizers reached a broadcasting deal for the revamped season.

Australia’s four Super Rugby franchises and the Perth-based Western Force will play two rounds of matches before a two-week playoff series in September. The Super Rugby AU tournament will kick off with the Queensland Reds hosting the New South Wales Waratahs in Brisbane and the Canberra-based Brumbies hosting the Melbourne Rebels the following day.

Rugby Australia confirmed the plans on Wednesday after striking a deal with Fox Sports Australia to broadcast the tournament.

Negotiations are continuing on plans for an international season, including the potential for a four-test Bledisloe Cup series against New Zealand and a condensed Rugby Championship also involving World Cup champion South Africa and Argentina.

All scheduled July test matches in Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Japan were postponed when global rugby went into lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The five-nation Super Rugby tournament was suspended after seven rounds in March because of international travel restrictions and quarantine requirements.

New Zealand devised a five-team Super Rugby Aotearoa tournament as a way to resume professional rugby in a domestic setting staring this weekend, when crowds will be allowed into the stadiums.

The Aotearoa tournament is the first professional rugby union tournament to resume after the COVID-19 crisis. Australia's National Rugby League, a competition for the 13-a-side version of rugby, kicked off last month and was initially played in empty stadiums.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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