Rugby Australia (RA) has said a World Rugby bailout will provide "certainty for the next 12 months" after the national association plunged into a financial crisis.

The impact of coronavirus has been a major factor in Rugby Australia suffering drastic economic worries, with a host of staff stood down for several months and players taking hefty pay cuts.

It has now secured a payout of 14.2million Australian dollars from the global governing body, released as part of a COVID-19 emergency relief fund.

All international tours scheduled for July have been cancelled, it was announced on Friday, meaning Australia's matches against Ireland and Fiji cannot take place.

It remains to be seen whether the Rugby Championship can take place later in the year, which would also help the Australian game financially.

Rob Clarke, interim chief executive of RA, said: "Our game has suffered an enormous impact globally from COVID-19 and we are very grateful for the support of World Rugby and commend them on their leadership in managing this issue for the global game.

"The financial implications of the virus have been significant for Rugby Australia and this emergency relief funding will provide us with certainty for the next 12 months and enable us to close off our 2019 accounts.

"The funding, in combination with the extensive cuts made across the business, provides us with the short-term impetus to see through the pandemic but does not solve all of the challenges.

"The board is continuing to work through its plans for organisational reform and additionally there are key conversations to be had across the game’s stakeholders about our rugby offering for 2020 and beyond.

"The World Rugby funding provides a much-needed boost and a level of security as we continue this important work."

World Rugby has taken the decision to postpone all international rugby matches scheduled for July because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Reigning Rugby World Cup holders South Africa had been due to face Scotland and Georgia, while England were set to tour Japan and New Zealand had been scheduled to host Wales and Scotland.

However, all of those matches, and Ireland's tour of Australia, have been postponed with no new dates set.

A statement from World Rugby read: "Extended travel and quarantine restrictions that apply to numerous countries, and concerns over adequate player preparation time, mean that any sort of cross-border international rugby competition cannot be hosted in July.

"Monitoring of the potential impact on the remaining 2020 international windows continues in collaboration with international rugby stakeholders and the respective authorities.  

"All parties, including member unions, international competitions, professional club competitions and International Rugby Players, will be involved in the evaluation of potential contingency options with a view to achieving an aligned calendar for the remainder of the year.

"All decision-making will be entirely contingent on national government travel, quarantine and health advice and important player welfare and hosting considerations in line with return-to-rugby guidance recently published by World Rugby."

Rugby Australia's general manager Ben Whitaker had previously suggested that games could be rescheduled for October.

International rugby has been on hold since March when the Six Nations was halted with four matches still to play.

The financial impact of having no games has already severely impacted the unions in Australia and the USA, with World Rugby having set up a $100million relief fund.

 

The late, great Jonah Lomu would have been celebrating his 45th birthday on Tuesday.

News of the New Zealand legend's death at the age of only 40 rocked the sporting world in November 2015.

The giant wing tormented opponents during his magnificent career with such searing pace, incredible power and skill.

We pick some of the moments in which Lomu demonstrated why he was such a phenomenon.

Four-midable powerhouse demolishes England

Lomu had only just turned 20 when he got his first experience of the Rugby World Cup in South Africa back in 1995 and he was very much at home on the big stage.

England were simply unable to contain the powerful flyer in the semi-final at Newlands, Lomu scoring a sensational four tries in a 45-29 victory.

Lomu set the tone with a stunning early solo score, brushing off Tony Underwood and darting past Will Carling before steamrollering his way through Mike Catt and touching down.

He clinically added another three tries to set up a final against the hosts, which the Springboks won at Ellis Park.

 

Deja vu at Twickenham

England must have felt they had already seen more than enough of the imposing Lomu ahead of another World Cup showdown at Twickenham 21 years ago.

The two sides were locked at 16-16 in a Pool B match when Lomu produced another moment of magic in the second half.

He bolted down the left flank at great speed, hurtling past Jeremy Guscott and beating another three defenders before dotting down for a sublime score in the corner.

The All Blacks went on to win 30-16, thanks in no small part to the unstoppable Lomu.

 

All Blacks suffer Les Bleus despite jaw-dropping double

October 31, 1999 was a day to forget for New Zealand fans but Lomu sparkled again in a painful World Cup semi-final defeat to France.

He conjured up another jaw-dropping individual try when a swarm of blue shirts were unable to halt his charge from midfield.

Lomu added another for the showreel early in the second half after combining magnificently with Jeff Wilson as the All Blacks steamed into a 24-10 lead.

France came storming back at Twickenham, though, winning a thriller 43-31 to leave New Zealand shell-shocked despite the brilliance of Lomu.

 

Scotland blown away

Lomu's only other Test hat-trick came in a 69-20 demolition of Scotland in Dunedin. 

The All Blacks ran riot at Carisbrook in 2000, Lomu again taking centre stage with a world-class display of finishing.

Sheer strength, persistence and a blistering turn of foot gave him an opening try, getting over the line having got back to his feet after being taken down briefly by Chris Paterson.

His other two tries were more straightforward as weary Scotland were given a brutal lesson.

England defence coach John Mitchell expects Saracens duo Maro Itoje and Mako Vunipola to make "good decisions" over their futures.

Itoje has been linked with a loan move to Racing 92 and there are no certainties over which club his England team-mate Vunipola will play for next season after Sarries were relegated from the Premiership for breaching salary-cap regulations.

England head coach Eddie Jones is unable to select players based overseas, but Mitchell is confident Itoje and Vunipola will still be available for selection.

The New Zealander said: "I'm sure Eddie, as he is very good at, is guiding them and helping them and they have probably sought his advice.

"They've got family and friends and people within Saracens who they trust. 

"I'm quite confident that they will make good decisions, that are right for them and their families and also that are right in terms of playing Test rugby for England because they are two guys who love playing for England."

Mitchell knows the coaching staff and players must be ready to adapt their methods when rugby union returns after being suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The RFU and our medics are working very closely with the government and it’s important I leave it with them," he added.

"No one knows what the pecking order will be. I guess it's just sensible that non-contact sports will be the creators of the start, I guess, and we'll learn from what we experience and what they go through. When we eventually get the green button then we as a coaching group will need to be ready.

"We're going to have to be creative and innovative around how we do things. A lot of our players are going to be better for this as well because they've had to find a way to train with home constraints.

"We are going to have to find different ways to train based on the distancing."

Vincent Clerc is excited by the potential a youthful France side has but warned it is premature to be talking up their chances of winning the 2023 Rugby World Cup on home soil.

Les Bleus were top of the Six Nations table with one game to play against Ireland when the tournament was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic in March.

An inexperienced France team had started the Fabien Galthie era in style by beating England and were on course for a Grand Slam before losing to Scotland at Murrayfield.

French rugby fans have been starved of success in recent times, with their last Six Nations title coming a decade ago.

Clerc is optimistic about the future, but stressed the importance of patience. 

Reflecting on the Six Nations performances, the former France wing told Stats Perform: "It was nice to watch. It is enjoyable, we wanted to see them winning. They started very well against England and lost one game.

"We are getting excited with this team and that's normal because we know they are very talented, they have a good team spirit, the players want to be together and play for each other. There is a solidarity between the players, so we like them.

"But we have to be patient. They are young players, they can make some mistakes, there will be some defeats. We said many good things about them, but there are some difficulties, we can't be too severe.

"We have to give them some time to grow. They have a good potential and a great team spirit. It was what we were expecting. The team spirit and the values of this team were important in the last Six Nations, maybe more important than the performances on the field."

Clerc says France must show more proof that they can step up against high-quality opposition before the next World Cup.

"I think they have to be ready before 2023, 2023 is the final goal. I think that many players, who are now in the French national team, will play several World Cups," he added.

"I think this team has to be stronger and stronger to be at 100 per cent in 2023. That also means that, in the meantime, they have to win Six Nations, they have to win friendly games in November or in the summer, they need to win against teams from the Southern Hemisphere.

"It will be important, they have to learn. There will be some ups and downs in the next years."

Rugby Australia (RA) interim CEO Rob Clarke wants a swift return to play and to get a handle on the organisation's financial state.

Clarke outlined his two key objectives at his first media conference in the role on Thursday, having met with board members on Zoom beforehand.

The former Brumbies and Rebels CEO has replaced Raelene Castle after her controversial reign came to an end last month.

He is in no doubt as to the scale of the task facing him, with rugby on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has had a huge monetary impact.

"There's a lot to be done," said Clarke. "The game has gone through a very, very challenging period and the first item on the agenda is to get ourselves playing around the country again.

"I'm delighted with the plans that have been put into place with the team here, we're well positioned for when the restrictions are lifted and will enable us to get rugby played at both a community level and a professional level as soon as we possibly can."

Clarke revealed proposals had been put to the Australian government for the sport to return, with July the earliest date play could resume at the elite level.

"[At the] professional level, our plans have been submitted to the government," he said.

"Assuming that restrictions are lifted as we hope in the next week or so, we would aim to be playing in possibly July with training starting in June, but of course it's all tied to restrictions.

"The government has our proposal and I hope they view it favourably and that will give us a rough time frame."

Prior to her departure, Castle announced provisional losses of $9.4million for RA in 2019, with a much larger deficit – reported as up to $120m ​– on the books for 2020 if rugby does not return this year.

Clarke, however, is hopeful a World Rugby bailout will ease RA's worries.

"That is something that is absolute priority, clearly the game is not in healthy financial shape, we know that, the exact details I'll get across in coming days," he said.

"I'm confident that World Rugby money is secure and that will be approved imminently and that goes a long way to relieving some immediate financial pressures. But I need a little bit more time to get under the numbers and understanding where we're at."

Rugby Australia (RA) director Peter Wiggs has resigned just over a month after joining the board.

Wiggs was elected as a director on March 30, but his resignation was confirmed on Wednesday.

The Supercars chairman was poised to become RA chairman before a fallout over his chief executive plans, according to a report from the Sydney Morning Herald.

In a statement, RA chairman Paul McLean said: "Peter has decided to step down from the board and I understand his reasons.

"He has undertaken some very important work and has made a valuable contribution to the organisation, in a very short time, and we are thankful for his contribution.

"The immediate priority of the board is to install a replacement for Peter, and an interim chief executive. I will provide an update on those matters at the appropriate time."

SA Rugby has admitted it is considering the possibility of rescheduling the British and Irish Lions tour due to the impact of the coronavirus.

Warren Gatland's Lions are due to visit South Africa next July and August for a tour that will feature three Tests against the world champions.

However, the outbreak of COVID-19 could have a knock-on effect on that tour, with Northern Hemisphere countries facing up to the possibility of missing out on revenue from internationals that may have to be scrapped later this year.

A report over the weekend claimed the Lions' 2021 tour to South Africa could be cancelled entirely as World Rugby contemplates how to reschedule the calendar when the sport returns.

SA Rugby has insisted the Lions tour remains on, though it conceded the dates are being looked at.

"While we continue to look forward to an incredible tour by The British and Irish Lions next year, and there are no planned changes, it would be remiss of us not to explore various scenarios for a possible date change caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said an SA Rugby spokesperson.

The Lions last toured South Africa in 2009, losing 2-1 to the Springboks.

They have since beaten Australia 2-1 and drawn with New Zealand under Gatland.

Bill Beaumont wants to deliver a "stronger, more sustainable game" after he was re-elected for a second term as World Rugby chairman.

The former England captain, 68, achieved a 28-23 majority over fellow candidate Agustin Pichot following the first round of voting in the independent election, meaning he will carry on in the post for a further four years.

France's Bernard Laporte is the new vice-chairman after standing unopposed for the position, while seven new members have been confirmed to the organisation's executive committee.

World Rugby will officially confirm Beaumont's continuation in the role at its annual meeting on May 12, though he is already thinking about the future as rugby union looks to recover from problems caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

A complete shutdown of the sport at club and international level has had financial ramifications for many, with the focus now on a plan for a return to action that still "prioritises player welfare".

"Now is not the time for celebration. We have work to do," Beaumont said in a statement.

"We are tackling COVID-19 and must implement an appropriate return-to-rugby strategy that prioritises player welfare, while optimising any opportunity to return to international rugby this year in full collaboration with club competitions for the good of players, fans and the overall financial health of the sport.

"I am determined to ensure that the spirit of unity and solidarity that has characterised our work in response to an unprecedented global COVID-19 pandemic, is the cornerstone of a new approach that will deliver a stronger, more sustainable game when we emerge with new enthusiasm, a renewed purpose and an exciting future."

Beaumont thanked outgoing vice-chairman Pichot for the Argentinian's contribution to World Rugby over their previous four years of working together.

"While we stood against each other in this campaign, we aligned in many ways, and I have the utmost respect for him," Beaumont said. "Gus is passionate about the sport and his contribution has been significant."

Billy Vunipola is convinced Eddie Jones remains the right man to lead England to the top of world rugby and has heeded the warning his head coach gave the team after signing a new contract.

England defeated Australia and two-time defending champions New Zealand en route to reaching the Rugby World Cup final in Japan last year.

However, a fired-up South Africa proved a hurdle too far in the final as England limply succumbed to a 32-12 defeat in Yokohama.

The Rugby Football Union remained convinced in Jones, though, and the Australian signed a new contract through to the 2023 World Cup earlier this month.

Saracens powerhouse Vunipola says the whole team is behind Jones.

"I think everyone just sees Eddie through the lens of the media and what he says, but the players will always back him and follow him," he told the Daily Mail.

"If you watch the documentary about the World Cup, the most excited I have ever been was when we had the first meeting before the New Zealand game. People should watch that.

"It was the first meeting of the week and Eddie just said, 'Nobody thinks we can beat the All Blacks, but I do'. It was on the Sunday I think, the day after we had played Australia.

"Everyone was pumped already! It was a shame what happened to us in the final but I truly believe we have the right leader in charge to take us to the top."

Upon agreeing to his new deal, Jones put England's stars on red alert by suggesting as much as 60 per cent of the squad could be different by the time the next World Cup in France arrives.

Vunipola believes that is a sign of Jones wanting to keep England focused and says he is ready to meet the challenge.

"I've now got another three-plus years to be within that 40 per cent," he added.

"That's another way of him challenging the boys not to let up. Everyone needs to take heed of his messages and make sure you aren't the guy who gets cut."

Vunipola also harbours ambitions of representing the British and Irish Lions in South Africa next year, having not yet played in the red jersey – a shoulder injury scuppering his hopes in 2017.

"That is one of the biggest things for me. I want to give myself the platform to help me play for the Lions. I need to play for England first, to put myself in the shop window to play for the Lions," he said.

"I have to show I am good enough. It is going to be massive and there is so much competition. It is definitely something I am very keen on doing."

Scottish Rugby will discuss a salary reduction scheme with high-earning players and staff members as they deal with the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The governing body has confirmed it will continue to do whatever possible to support all clubs, though income streams are "badly affected" with no games staged at Murrayfield as the season remains suspended.

Scotland may also be unable to complete tours to South Africa and New Zealand in July, while there are even concerns over their home internationals scheduled for November, when they are due to play against Argentina, Japan and the All Blacks.

Fearing a potential loss of expected revenue in excess of £12million, chief executive Mark Dodson has agreed to take a 30 per cent pay cut until at least the start of September, while head coach Gregor Townsend agreed to a 25 per cent decrease last month.

A proportion of Scottish Rugby's staff will be placed into the government's furlough scheme, while players will be consulted over the possibility of reducing their wages as the organisation tries to cut costs amid the global health crisis.

"Our players and our coaches cannot fulfil any fixtures and the money we normally expect to make from the professional and international game at this time of the year, and over the summer, has all but disappeared due to the challenges beyond our control," Dodson said in a statement.

"No one knows with any certainty when any rugby can resume.

"We have seen many, many examples of our staff, clubs and players across the country supporting their local communities and demonstrating rugby's values in daily life.

"Rugby makes a positive contribution to society and it is this positivity and our whole sport working collectively that will give us the best opportunity to come through this crisis, safely, together."

Wayde van Niekerk says it was "an amazing inspiration" to see South Africa win the Rugby World Cup – especially as the team contained friends and family.

The Springboks triumphed 32-12 over England in the final in Yokohama on November 2 last year to become world champions for the third time.

Olympic 400-metre champion and world-record holder Van Niekerk says the players deserve all the accolades and sponsorship bonuses they have received for their momentous success.

"It's been an amazing inspiration for not just myself but the entire country, and yet another spark for myself as a South African to want to achieve great things," he told Stats Perform.

"I'm quite close friends with a few players and it's great to see how their lives have changed and the blessings and the sponsors and so on that are coming their way. It's amazing, it's well deserved and it's great."

Van Niekerk is friends with several key South Africa players, including captain Siya Kolisi, and he is a cousin of Cheslin Kolbe.

Kolbe battled back from injury in time to play against England and went on to score the final try of the match, capping a terrific 2019 that saw him nominated alongside eventual winner Pieter-Steph du Toit for World Rugby's Player of the Year award.

Van Niekerk recalled: "Thinking back to Cheslin's final try: he's come through so much, moving to France, thinking that he wouldn't make the SA team, and just wanting to go and enjoy his rugby and then getting selected for the World Cup.

"The final try was amazing but let's be honest, his entire tournament, I feel like he was one of the players of the tournament and one of the highlights of the Rugby World Cup.

"I think it's such a blessing and such an amazing blessing to be associated with such great people, like Siya and Cheslin, it's lovely to be associated with them and draw off of them and use them as inspiration for myself, coming back from injury and wanting to do great things for my country the way they did."

Eddie Jones admits he will probably be walking away as a Rugby World Cup winner in three years if England live up to his lofty expectations.

It was announced on Thursday that the 60-year-old had signed a new contract to remain as England's coach through to the next World Cup, where his side will aim to go one better than they did last year.

A 32-12 loss to South Africa meant Jones and his squad left Japan disappointed but, having fielded the youngest ever team to play in a World Cup final, Jones is now looking to the future.

The Australian hopes his pursuit of perfection will result in his team lifting The Webb Ellis Cup in France in 2023.

"We want to become a great team, I think I have stated that fairly consistently," Jones said.

"We want to become a great team; we want to become one of those teams where people remember how you play for a period of time because that's the ache I have as a coach.

"I want a team that plays the perfect game of rugby and I want a team that can be remembered as a great team.

"I think we've got players within England to do that. I think the players have the hunger to do it. I think we're seeing periods of time where they have done it, but we haven't been able to do it consistently.

"The test of greatness is to do it consistently. With that comes results.

"If we're the greatest team then a World Cup medal's probably sitting in front of us. Our goal hasn't changed at all from what I stated at the start of this cycle and it will continue to be the same."

Jones has the best win percentage of any England coach in history, his team having won 78 per cent of his 54 Test matches in charge.

However, the defeat to the Springboks in the World Cup final has left him with a sense of unfinished business.

"Having done the four years, I felt the project hasn't been finished yet. There is still a lot of growth in the team," Jones added.

Eddie Jones has the best win ratio of any England coach, but the biggest prize eluded him last year.

England have won 42 of their 54 games (78 per cent) since Jones' appointment was confirmed in 2015.

On Thursday, the Rugby Football Union announced the 60-year-old had agreed a new deal that will run until the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

We take a look at the highs and lows of Jones' time in charge.

 

HIGH - A 2016 GRAND SLAM

Jones' first tournament was a resounding success as England beat Scotland, crushed Italy and then edged past Ireland and Wales in the Six Nations.

A 31-21 triumph over France delivered the Six Nations and a first Grand Slam in 13 years.

"I'm very proud of the boys," Jones told BBC Sport. "It's a great achievement by the team. I always had confidence in them."

HIGH - A 3-0 SERIES WHITEWASH DOWN UNDER

Later that year England headed to Jones' homeland for a three-Test series, and the tremendous start continued for the former Wallabies coach.

Having scored 39 points in Brisbane, a record for England in Australia, a 23-7 victory in Melbourne earned Jones' side their first series success on Wallabies turf.

After a 44-40 win completed a series sweep, England captain Dylan Hartley said: "We can all be proud of what we have achieved."

 

LOW - IRISH END WINNING RUN

England arrived in Dublin in March 2017 seeking both a second successive Grand Slam and a world-record 19th straight victory.

Yet Ireland had other ideas, overwhelming the visitors and claiming a 13-9 win as Jones tasted defeat for the first time.

"I take full responsibility, I didn't prepare the team well and we will respond in the future," Jones said.

 

LOW - FIVE-GAME LOSING STREAK

Fast forward 15 months and things felt very, very different for Jones' side as they lost a fifth game in a row, going down 23-12 to South Africa.

England had lost the last three games of that year's Six Nations - beaten by Scotland, France and Ireland - before back-to-back defeats at the start of the three-Test series in South Africa.

"We're a bit like an old car at the moment - you fix one bit and another part breaks down," said Jones, who saw his team round out the tour with a 25-10 victory in Cape Town.

HIGH - OUSTING THE ALL BLACKS

No one had beaten New Zealand at a World Cup in a dozen years, yet the back-to-back champions were stunned 19-7 in the 2019 semi-finals.

It was perhaps the finest performance of the Jones era, Manu Tuilagi's early try setting England on their way to a famous victory over the All Blacks.

"They've been a great team so we had to dig really deep to beat them," said Jones, whose side advanced to a final against South Africa...

 

LOW - FALLING FLAT IN THE FINAL

A week later England were unable to conjure up another spectacular performance in Japan as South Africa's 32-12 victory meant they took home the Webb Ellis Cup.

Jones' side were simply not at the races, a raft of handling errors blighting their performance.

"That's the great thing about rugby; one day you're the best team in the world and the next a team knocks you off," Jones said.

Rugby Football Union (RFU) chief executive Bill Sweeney said boards across the world want to help Rugby Australia (RA) after it reported financial problems amid the coronavirus pandemic.

With rugby union leagues and competitions being shut down in a bid to combat the spread of COVID-19, RA stood down 75 per cent of its working staff for three months earlier this week, shortly after it had revealed a provisional deficit of 9.4 million Australian dollars in 2019.

USA Rugby has also filed for bankruptcy, claiming the suspensions caused by coronavirus, and the uncertainty about the future, had accelerated financial problems.

Sweeney conceded those announcements have caused concern among the world's unions, who are trying to collaborate on potential solutions to aid those struggling.

"The USA, quite frankly, were struggling somewhat before the crisis hit anyway – so they were perhaps the most vulnerable of anybody," Sweeney explained.

"I know World Rugby are in conversations with them in terms of how they can sustain the game in that country.

"Australia have been reported as being in a weaker position than a lot of others.

"There is an unprecedented amount of dialogue going on between all the unions and the relationship between the north and the south [hemispheres] has probably never been better, and we are just looking at various ways we can structure things that everybody can benefit and find solutions to these challenges ahead.

"It's in no one's interest for Australia to get into even more serious difficulties."

Eddie Jones' England are due to tour Japan in July for a two-Test series against the Brave Blossoms.

However, given the Olympics - staged in Tokyo - has already been put back a year to July 2021, it would appear unlikely England will embark on that tour when scheduled.

"We are in regular dialogue with World Rugby and a lot of the other unions as well around the world," Sweeney added.

"This is a conversation we are having around the July tours. It's a bit too early to say. We expect to be able to make a decision on that towards the end of April."

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