Rugby Australia CEO Andy Marinos has thrown Australia's hat in the ring to host the Rugby Championship hub in 2021 following the success of last year's Tri-Nations series between Australia, New Zealand and Argentina.
Days after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced her government would on April 6 set a potential date for a trans-Tasman bubble, Marinos revealed he had already begun talks with SANZAAR to host the premier Southern Hemisphere rugby tournament on Australian shores once more.
After months of discussions with the sporting body, Australia was eventually granted the rights in September last year to host a Tri Nations tournament in November after New Zealand were unable to overcome quarantine issues.
The tournament was deemed a huge success with five matches played in NSW - which featured Argentina's famous victory over the All Blacks -- and one at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. Marinos is hopeful RA could repeat that effort, but with South Africa rejoining this time around.
"From a SANZAAR perspective we have actually started having those conversations around what is the [plan] this year," Marinos told media on Wednesday. "I think we've resigned ourselves to the fact that we're probably going to be in a bubble in some way, shape or form.
"So we're going to go through a process in determining where that needs to be; obviously from an Australian point of view we successfully hosted the Tri Nations last year on a very short turnaround.
"My request to SANZAAR is let's get ahead of the game a lot earlier and be able to build a proper model. And I think there is a fair appetite that we want to see whether centrally hosting it here in Australia again is an option and it's something that we'll put a lot of effort into."
For now, Marinos and RA remain focused on hosting a successful July international series against France.
World Rugby are set to announce their decision on the July Test window at the end of the month, with the first Wallabies-France Test match slated for Jul. 3 , just eight days after the Top 14 final is scheduled. French Rugby Federation's president, Bernard Laporte, has already stated the tour "is not possible" if the team is forced to undertake a required 14-day quarantine.
Despite the scheduling issue, Marinos remains confident France will be in Australia for a three-Test series.
"Absolutely I've been engaging with the French on a regular basis," Marinos said. "They have a huge desire to come over and play against us.
"So unless there is a major event that restricts us from a national health and safety perspective we absolutely plan that we'll be playing against the French."
If the series does go ahead, it is uncertain whether France will bring a full-strength squad with players' availability affected by the Top 14 finals, and then potentially quarantine.
France remain contention in the Six Nations, their postponed clash with Scotland on Sunday morning AEST set to decide whether Les Bleus or Wales are crowned champions.
Marinos remains hopeful France bring their strongest possible squad Down Under.
"We're looking at that with them, they've got the [Top 14] semifinals on the 19th and the final on the [26th]," Marinos said when questioned about the strength of the French team. "Whether we're going to have the teams come over in two batches or one, again that's part of a bigger conversation as when do we actually start that window.
"If you look at the French final on the 26th, we may have to have the first [Test] either the 10th or the 17th of July. So we're also trying to understand how many of the current French players will be playing in those finals; so we're just monitoring all those dynamics."
Marinos said there was a larger conversation ongoing with World Rugby around the Test window.
On Wednesday morning it was announced South Africa would play host to the British & Irish Lions as was originally planned, despite the uncertainty of South Africa producing a COVID safe series with in fans in attendance. To get the series off the ground, the Springboks and Lions have been granted a special dispensation to play the three Tests from the 24th of July to the 7th of August.
Asked whether the Lions series being all but confirmed for South Africa could see the Rugby Championship hub staged in the Republic, Marinos raised similar concerns to that which saw the Australian cricket team pull out of their planned tour earlier this year.
"We need to have those sort of robust conversations with South Africa, what does it mean?
"I think there is more of a concern in our guys to go over there and potentially quarantining there and then coming back and quarantining over here, which I know the South Africans are going to have to do if they come here.
"But this announcement this morning, to be honest, caught me a little bit by surprise, that they are going to host the Lions tour; I don't know what the structure around that is looking like.
"Like anything in this day and age, we've just got to keep an open mind and if that model evolves into something that looks like it could be a viable option I'm sure we'll have a look at that from a SANZAAR perspective."