New Zealand Rugby says it has earmarked a six-week block in November-December to host the Rugby Championship after the southern hemisphere's governing body SANZAAR confirmed the country as its preferred host for the annual competition.
The Championship sees the national teams of South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina play each other home and away but with international travel restricted due to COVID-19 SANZAAR is aiming to play all the games in a 'hub' this year.
New Zealand has virtually eliminated the novel coronavirus domestically, with the current 27 cases all coming from returning citizens in quarantine facilities.
"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 said 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," NZR Chief Executive Mark Robinson said, adding it was too soon to discuss the format and scheduling.
New Zealand's borders are still closed to anyone but citizens, though exemptions have been granted to essential workers.
The teams would need to complete a 14-day quarantine period upon arrival and Robinson said SANZAAR would cover those costs as well as the costs of the competition.
While New Zealand and Australia have each set up competitions for their own Super Rugby teams, players from South Africa and Argentina have not returned to action yet, which could leave the Springboks and Pumas undercooked.
"We are hopeful they will have rugby under their belts," Robinson said. "We are entertaining prospects they come to New Zealand and play games here as well. We want to work with them as best as possible."
Meanwhile, the quality of Australia's maligned Super Rugby AU competition can only improve as teams shake off the rust after a long lay-off, Queensland Reds coach Brad Thorn believes.
Pundits and fans have panned the domestic tournament's playing standards after some scrappy games through the opening two rounds.
New Zealand's domestic 'Super Rugby Aotearoa' competition, which started in early June, has drawn big crowds and garnered rave reviews by comparison.
Former All Black Thorn put Australia's clunky play down to the three-month shutdown of rugby due to Covid-19.
"You look at the New Zealand competition - they're really humming along now," he said. "I imagine with our competition in the next week or two, we’ll really start to see more and more rugby played. The quality will continue to improve.
"The test was always around not having any trial games and just (going) straight into it. I’m looking forward to some really good rugby."
With the future of Super Rugby uncertain due to the pandemic, Australia and New Zealand have proposed a tournament involving the two nations' Super Rugby teams from 2021 but have been at loggerheads over the format.
Australia is pushing for five teams in any competition that eventuates but New Zealand media have reported that governing body New Zealand Rugby want only two or three from Australia due to concerns about the quality of the product.
Thorn, who represented Australia in rugby league, said he hoped for a broader competition potentially involving other countries' teams.
"They’ve talked about a Japanese team, maybe a [Pacific] island team ... I think all that stuff is exciting," he said.
"I agree with what both sides are saying. You want to have a strong competition and you want to have good rugby played."