Wallabies set for afternoon kick-offs in Rugby Championship

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It's back to the future for Australian rugby this season, with the Wallabies confirmed to play two afternoon fixtures during the Rugby Championship later this year.

Joe Schmidt's side will face the Springboks in Brisbane on the afternoon of Aug. 10 [2.45pm AEST], before they later face the All Blacks in Sydney on Sep. 17 [3.55pm AEST] in the first of two Bledisloe Cup clashes. The Accor Stadium fixture had already been tipped to be played in the afternoon, but the addition of a second daytime kick-off for the South Africa Test at Suncorp Stadium had not been expected.

The Rugby Championship opener will however clash with the final round of the Hospital Cup in club rugby, which will certainly restrict some Wallabies supporters from attending.

Before the onset of professionalism, the Wallabies would often contest international matches under the afternoon sun, before broadcast dollars forced the majority of Tests into the evening.

But Rugby Australia [RA] did schedule a daytime kick-off in the third Bledisloe Test of 2021 in Perth, while the Wallabies also played in an earlier timeslot when the Rugby Championship was staged across Queensland in 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

At last year's Rugby World Cup, Australia played all but one of their pool games in the afternoon or early evening, with only their 40-6 hammering by Wales taking place at night.

RA will be hoping the 3.55pm kick-off [AEST] for Bledisloe I in Sydney will encourage more supporters to travel to Accor Stadium than in recent years, with crowds at the venue declining year on year, mirroring the Wallabies' slide down the Test-match rankings.

With schoolboy and club rugby having largely concluded by that point, the earlier timeslot should appeal to families for whom the typical Sydney kick-off of 8pm had been too late.

Australia begin their Rugby Championship campaign with back-to-back Tests against the Springboks, before they head to Argentina for two games against the Pumas. The Wallabies round out their schedule against New Zealand, with SANZAAR confirming the tournament had reverted to its mini-tours format after a truncated tournament ahead of last year's World Cup.

The All Blacks' mini-tour is to South Africa, while the Pumas will play two Tests in New Zealand.

"Following the abbreviated tournament last year due to RWC 2023 in France it is great to be back to a full 12-match tournament this year," SANZAAR chief Brendan Morris said. "Rugby fans are in for a treat as many of the best players in world rugby will play in 11 cities, from Buenos Aires to Perth to Wellington, in what promises to be a highly anticipated and exciting championship.

"The All Blacks are the reigning TRC winners but will play two highly anticipated matches against the World Champion Springboks in South Africa. The tournament will also feature as usual the home and away Bledisloe Cup series between the Wallabies and All Blacks.

"Rugby fans all over the world will be watching as the All Blacks, Pumas, Springboks and Wallabies do battle for southern hemisphere supremacy. SANZAAR looks forward to once again delivering one of the pre-eminent annual rugby tournaments on the rugby calendar."

Schmidt's first Test in charge of Australia is in Sydney against Wales on July 6.


Round 1: Saturday Aug. 10

Australia vs. South Africa, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, 2.45pm [AEST]

New Zealand vs. Argentina, Sky Stadium, Wellington, 7.05pm [NZT]

Round 2: Saturday Aug. 17

New Zealand vs. Argentina, Eden Park, Auckland, 7.05pm [NZT]

Australia vs. South Africa, Optus Stadium, Perth, 7.55pm [AEST]

Round 3: Saturday Aug. 31

South Africa vs. New Zealand, Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg, 5.00pm [SAST]

Argentina vs. Australia, Estadio Jorge Luis Hirschi, Buenos Aires, 4.00pm [ART]

Round 4: Saturday Sept. 7

South Africa vs. New Zealand, DHL Stadium, Cape Town, 5.00pm [SAST]

Argentina vs. Australia, Brigadier Estanislao Lopez Stadium, Santa Fe, 4.00pm [ART]

Round 5: Saturday Sept. 14

Australia vs. New Zealand, Accor Stadium, Sydney, 3.55pm [AEST]

Argentina vs. South Africa, Estadio Unico Madre de Ciudades, Santiago, 6.00pm [ART]

Round 6: Saturday Sept. 21

New Zealand vs. Australia, Sky Stadium, Wellington, 7.05pm [NZT]

South Africa vs. Argentina, Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit, 5.00pm [SAST]