Sydney (AFP)

Australian Super Rugby, limited to five local franchises, will return on July 3, the Australian Rugby Federation announced on Tuesday.

"The five-team competition, which includes the four Australian Super Rugby teams plus the Western Force, will begin on July 3 and will be contested for 12 consecutive weekends," said Rugby Australia.

The season will therefore begin on a Friday with the meeting between the Queensland Reds who will host the New South Wales Waratahs in Brisbane. The next day, the ACT Brumbies will face the Melbourne Rebels in Canberra.

The Western Force, based in Perth and ousted from Super Rugby in 2017 for lack of results, will have to wait an additional week before joining the competition.

This competition is a tight version of Super Rugby which pitted franchises from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina and Japan before its premature suspension in March because of the coronavirus epidemic.

Super Rugby Aotearoa (the name of New Zealand in Maori), which only brings together New Zealand franchises, is due to start on Saturday with the public. Nearly 35,000 spectators are expected for Sunday's clash between the Hurricanes and the Blues, who have just recruited the two-time world champion Dan Carter (38).

With only a handful of cases registered in Australia last week, restrictions have been relaxed allowing professional sports to resume on the mainland.

XIII rugby already started again at the end of May, and Australian football, the most popular oval ball sport in Australia, will resume on Thursday.

© 2020 AFP