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Rugby's hastily arranged 'coronavirus cup' all about cash for unions

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Ireland's home games are likely to remain on RTÉ and Channel 4, but Amazon Prime are heavily touted as the broadcaster of games in Britain (stock image)

Ireland's home games are likely to remain on RTÉ and Channel 4, but Amazon Prime are heavily touted as the broadcaster of games in Britain (stock image)

Getty Images

Ireland's home games are likely to remain on RTÉ and Channel 4, but Amazon Prime are heavily touted as the broadcaster of games in Britain (stock image)

There is little fresh about the hastily arranged coronavirus cup, officially named the 'Autumn Nations Cup', which was confirmed yesterday.

Cash-strapped European unions need international matches to stem the cash-flow worries brought about by rugby's five-and-a-half month stoppage and, with the southern hemisphere unions staying put and Japan refusing to travel, they've been forced to play each other in a competition two weeks after the 2020 Six Nations finishes.

Who's in and how does it work?

Fiji and Georgia have joined the Six Nations in the eight-team tournament, with Georgia replacing the Japanese. Rumours that the World Cup-winning South Africans would join were unfounded.

The eight teams will be split into two pools based largely on the need to avoid a repeat of matches that had just taken place in the Six Nations.

That means Ireland avoid Italy and France who they meet in Octoberm and instead play Wales (h), England (a) and Georgia at home.

Those matches take place over three weekends in November before the finals weekend sees the top teams from each conference meet, with second playing second etc.

Where can I watch?

The unions still hope crowds will be able to attend these games, but even if the turnstiles are open the attendances will be restricted.

Ireland's home games are likely to remain on RTÉ and Channel 4, but Amazon Prime are heavily touted as the broadcaster of games in Britain.

Will this save the day?

Unless crowds are allowed to attend, unions across Europe are facing a difficult winter but the matches and attending revenue will help keep the wolves from the door.

Although the tournament does not have a title sponsor, Ireland's home matches remain under the 'Guinness Series' umbrella and that revenue, combined with the television income, will help.

How are Ireland fixed?

The schedule is relentless and World Cup ranking points are on offer but nobody cares who wins and Andy Farrell will surely use this window to try new players and tweak his tactics with an eye on the Six Nations and the 2023 World Cup.

Autumn Nations Cup fixtures

Round One - Friday, November 13: Ireland v Wales, Aviva Stadium, 7.0; Saturday, November 14: Italy v Scotland, TBC, 12.45; England v Georgia, Twickenham, 3.0; Sunday, November 15: France v Fiji, TBC, TBC

Round Two - Saturday, November 21: Italy v Fiji, TBC, 12.45; England v Ireland, Twickenham, 3.0, Wales v Georgia, TBC, 5.15; Sunday, November 22: Scotland v France, Murrayfield, 3.0

Round Three - Saturday, November 28: Scotland v Fiji, Murrayfield, 1.45; Wales v England, TBC, 4.0; France v Italy, TBC, 8.0; Sunday, November 29: Ireland v Georgia, Aviva Stadium, 2.0

Finals Weekend - Saturday, December 5: Georgia v TBD, Murrayfield, 12.0; Ireland v TBD, Aviva Stadium, 2.15; Wales v TBD, TBC, 4.45; Sunday, December 6: Twickenham, 2.0.

Irish Independent