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Great unknown: Queensland, Perth, Sydney in battle for Bledisloe opener

But two sources told the Herald that Queensland could emerge as the frontrunner, due not only to the practicality of keeping the New Zealand and Australian squads in one spot, but also because the Queensland government has emerged as an enthusiastic bidder for any major event on offer.

The October 10 fixture could go to North Queensland Stadium in Townsville, which was due to host Australia v Fiji last month. The Gold Coast’s Cbus Stadium is also an option, having hosted Super Rugby AU games in recent weeks. Suncorp could also shape up as a potential venue but would require a negotiation with the NRL, which has a provisional booking there for a finals game.

Perth’s Optus Stadium is also a strong contender and would easily host the biggest crowd, with its capacity still at 65,000. By comparison, a COVID-restricted Suncorp can only seat 15,000 under current restrictions, while ANZ Stadium has had its generous 80,000 seats whittled down to 10,000.

The decision will come down to a commercial equation, based on the cost of accommodating two squads and match-day operations staff in each city, charter flights in and out of different cities what ticket sales can be generated and, crucially, which state government or tourism board is prepared to stump up the most to attract the game.

With time ticking before the opening Test, RA, New Zealand Rugby and their SANZAAR partners Argentina and South Africa are all in the uncomfortable position of having not a single flight or booking locked in.

Wallabies officials were reassured by conversations with their All Blacks counterparts this week in which New Zealand said they wanted the Bledisloe series to go ahead as much as Australia did.

As it stands, the Wallabies look set to go into camp in Queensland, potentially at an all-inclusive location like Sanctuary Cove, which has a hotel, gym and rugby pitch all in an enclosed area.

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The first two Bledisloe Cup Tests will be followed by another two in New Zealand, where the Pumas and Springboks are expected to assemble before the Rugby Championship.

Noises out of New Zealand suggested the recent Auckland outbreak, which resulted in the cancellation of the final round of Super Rugby Aotearoa, would not damage the country’s chances of hosting the tournament. Argentina are expected to send a side to New Zealand in coming weeks to play in the ITM Cup in an effort to give their players some rugby before they dive into Test fixtures.

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