ACT government health officials are scrambling to develop coronavirus protocols for the Canberra-bound Melbourne Rebels, who will set up a temporary base and potentially play "home" games in the capital.
The Rebels will arrive in the capital on Friday morning after it was decided they needed to get out of Victoria to avoid any COVID-19 disruptions to the Super Rugby relaunch next week.
A spike in positive coronavirus cases has prompted government officials to warn travelers to avoid visiting Melbourne hot spots, while Victorian rugby league fans will be banned from NRL games.
The Rebels and Rugby Australia settled on Canberra as an appropriate location given the Rebels play the ACT Brumbies in the domestic season-opener on July 4.
The team could stay longer if necessary, potentially moving their home games to Canberra Stadium.
ACT Health was unable to answer questions from The Canberra Times about the Rebels' arrival and the safety measures they would need to adhere to.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Canberra's peak medical body have urged people not to travel to Melbourne, but Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman is understood to have given clearance for the Rebels to set up camp in Canberra.
Super Rugby players are in a training "bubble" to limit contact with those outside of individual clubs. It's unclear if the Rebels will face extra testing protocols on arrival. The entire team and staff was tested for coronavirus earlier this week and all returned negative results.
The Rebels will be a part of a sporting double weekend in the capital, with Coleman allowing crowds of up to 1500 people to attend an NRL and Super Rugby match next weekend.
The Brumbies and the Canberra Raiders have contacted members about the process of getting tickets, with social distancing and strict biosecurity measures in place to limit the risk for those in attendance.
It's unclear if Victorian fans will be able to attend both the Brumbies and Raiders game. The NSW Health Minister said the AFL and NRL had assured him Victorian fans would not be allowed into venues.
The Brumbies and Raiders could have Victorian members applying for tickets to their matches. Every ticket will have an allocated seat and a name attached to aide contact tracing if there is evidence of a coronavirus outbreak after the first large crowd gatherings in Canberra since March.
The Rebels are expected to stay at a hotel in Civic and train at Duntroon and the players have been told they could be away from home for more than two weeks.
The Rebels were scheduled to host the Queensland Reds in Melbourne on July 10. The Brumbies have a bye in round two, and the Raiders play against the Melbourne Storm in Canberra on July 11, meaning the Rebels could host the Reds in the capital. A decision is expected within 48 hours.
MORE CANBERRA SPORT
- Set your alarm: Raiders tickets go on sale
- Canberran called in for a Giant Collingwood clash
- Brumbies set Super trial for round-one hopefuls
- Column: Laurie Daley fears Turbo's long mental battle
- No bags: Canberra braces for coronavirus crowd changes
- 'A dream': Floros looking to shine after scoring cricket deal
Meanwhile, Rebels boss Baden Stephenson has doused any suggestion of a Super Rugby boycott from his players, guaranteeing they are all locked in for what could be more than a fortnight away from home to relaunch the season.
Stephenson says the playing group are comfortable with that, denying reports that some were considering staying put in Melbourne as the latest round of pay negotiations played out.
Currently on an average 60 per cent pay cut, players were reportedly unhappy to be asked to take a revised 40 per cent hit for the remainder of the year now that a broadcast deal had been struck.
Rugby Australia recently made 47 full-time employees redundant, with those remaining on reduced hours or pay and the rest returning in October on 95 per cent of their normal wage.
Executives, including new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, however will take 30 per cent cuts for the remainder of the year, reports indicating players would be comfortable with a similar sacrifice.
Rugby Australia had not been advised of proposed strike action from the Rugby Union Players' Association though, Stephenson confident talks had been constructive on Thursday but annoyed by the insinuations of the claim.
"Our leaders (captain) Dane Haylett-Petty and (RUPA representative) Matt Toomua have been really strong leaders throughout this," the CEO told AAP.
"They speak transparently to our executive and (coach) Dave Wessels rang them last night to ask if there were any challenges and issues and both said there was never any communication (of a boycott).
"I was a little bit disappointed about how the perception of that comment may have made our players look.
"They're super excited to get back playing and I think a positive outcome will come from the negotiations."
The Rebels will train out of the Australian Defence Force facilities in Canberra, while Stephenson said he would also draw on his local knowledge after a long stint as head coach of the Tuggeranong Vikings that began more than 20 years ago.