The ball is back in Rugby Australia’s court as the wrangling over looming Bledisloe Cup matches reaches the most powerful people on the either side of the Tasman.
After calling Australian leader Scott Morrison on Monday night to clear the air, on Tuesday morning New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed the quarantine rules had changed for the Wallabies.
The adjusted protocols meant they would be able to train in small bubbles three days after they arrived, and as a full squad from day six.
Dates for the two Bledisloe Cup tests in New Zealand have been confirmed by New Zealand Rugby the All Blacks to play the Wallabies on these dates:
- Sunday 11th October the All Blacks to play the Wallabies at Wellington’s Sky Stadium
- Sunday 18th October at Eden Park in Auckland
Ardern’s announcement had so far been met with radio silence by Rugby Australia, but it did mean both teams could have identical build-ups for New Zealand Rugby’s preferred date for the first Bledisloe test – the weekend of October 10/11.
All Blacks coach Ian Foster was confident any concerns from across the ditch will have been eased ahead of the Super Rugby Australia final this weekend.
“They’ve asked for more time after the Super Rugby [Australia] final on [September] 19th.
“Now they’ve got two or three clear days to make those assessments before they come over and have an adequate preparation time. And not only adequate, it’s equal to ours.”
The New Zealand government’s relaxation of quarantine rules came after Wallabies coach Dave Rennie expressed his concern on Sunday over playing the first Bledisloe match on the weekend of October 10/11.
Rennie insisted the initial quarantine protocols were too restrictive and wouldn’t give his side enough preparation time.
And while the situation had changed, Sydney Morning Herald rugby writer Tom Decent warned the new developments were simply just a step in the right direction.
“Obviously it’s easier being able to train without being in strict hotel quarantine for a lot longer, but Rugby Australia is of the position that there’s no reason we can’t play those games on [October] the 17th and 24th.
“There’s a little bit of water to go under the bridge before we see an official announcement.”
It was a delay caused by the complex nature of the situation, which included serious considerations about the Rugby Championship.
New Zealand Rugby wanted the first Bledisloe match earlier to give the All Blacks a better preparation for that competition, which would be hosted in Australia during November and December.
That meant up to nine weeks away, which had raised questions about the availability of some players, especially those with young families.
Foster said no player had told him they wouldn’t travel but he conceded it was a big commitment.
“There’s no doubt that is something that sportspeople have been asked to do this year.
“If you want your sport to be able to continue, then people have been asked to make some sacrifices and that’s clearly a significant one.
“We’ll treat that issue with the respect that it deserves by talking to players about it.”
The possibility had been mooted of some in the squad being able to play a limited number of Rugby Championship matches.
But Foster said players would have to commit to the entire schedule.
“We’re accumulating facts on what quarantine looks like in Australia, and the possibility of bringing people in late or bringing people in early. I think they’re highly unlikely
“Once we get all that information we’ll put it in front of our players and say, ‘well here’s the situation’ and we’ll do what we always do and ask them what they think.
The same was now being asked of Rugby Australia when it came to next month’s Bledisloe Cup matches.
For their part, New Zealand Rugby were optimistic they would get what they wanted.
Source: rnz.co.nz Republished by arrangement.