The Rugby Championship looks set to be held as a standalone tournament in New Zealand this year.
Organisers SANZAAR have approached the Kiwi government to seek permission to hold the event there over six weeks in November and December.
The news appears to confirm that the traditional cross-hemisphere matches will not take place this autumn.
Ireland had been due to welcome South Africa, Australia and Japan to the Aviva Stadium for a series of money-spinning Tests.
Instead, it looks likely that they will take part in an eight-team tournament, run across November and finishing on December 5, featuring the other Six Nations countries as well as Fiji and Georgia.
If it gets approval, SANZAAR's plans will mean Munster could be without their pair of Springbok World Cup winners Damian De Allende and RG Snyman for almost two months. Ulster fans will also fear a call-up for their star back-row Marcell Coetzee who could also miss a significant period of action.
Unlike New Zealand and Australia, South Africa have no restrictions around picking overseas players and De Allende and Snyman are both key members of Jacques Nienaber's squad.
After missing out on the World Cup, Coetzee enjoyed a sensational season for Ulster and with Francois Louw now retired, he will be in and around the selection picture.
New Zealand would be given hosting rights, given the current situation with regards to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Currently, the country is allowing crowds to attend stadiums, with matches in the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition taking place in front of full houses
"We have determined that New Zealand is currently the favoured option given the Covid stability within the region," SANZAAR said in a statement, adding that it was "well advanced in option planning with New Zealand Rugby".
New Zealand's government admitted yesterday it was keen for the country to host the tournament.
"We're looking to play probably from early November until mid-December across six weeks," New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson said, adding it was too soon to discuss the format and scheduling.
Rugby is set to restart in Ireland on August 22 and Leinster yesterday learned that they will host Saracens in their delayed Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, September 19.
Ulster will travel to Toulouse to take on the four-time champions a day later, with the semi-finals held a week later and the final to take place on October 17 at a location still to be decided.
Saracens were yesterday boosted by the news that Owen Farrell will remain at the club next season despite their relegation to the Championship.