24 Sep 2020

Rugby: All Blacks may be forced into isolation at Christmas

From Checkpoint, 6:07 pm on 24 September 2020

New Zealand Rugby is complaining about a tricky quarantine prospect for the All Blacks - but wouldn't help Australia when its players faced a similar situation, a top sports journalist says. 

The draw sees the All Blacks playing their final test against Australia on 12 December in Sydney, ending a week later than the team had initially anticipated.

The All Blacks had been hoping the tournament, which also includes South Africa and Argentina, could have included a midweek test and been played over five weeks instead of six. 

Sydney Morning Herald Rugby writer Tom Decent told Checkpoint it was a situation no one in rugby wanted to see. 

However, Argentina and South Africa did not want all the matches crammed into five weeks so the only alternative was to have the final match played on 12 December which New Zealand clearly wasn't happy with, he said. 

"Interestingly, when Australia were in the same situation, when they wanted to play the Rugby Championship in New Zealand, Australia said: 'hey look, we don't want our guys in hotel isolation when they get back to Australia, what can we do about that?' and New Zealand said, "bad luck, not our problem, talk to your government...Shoe's on the other foot right now and New Zealand's kicking up a stink." 

He said Australian Rugby had had to work hard with its government to loosen the quarantine arrangements and New Zealand Rugby might have to do the same in this country. 

"You would imagine the easiest solution is for an agreement with the New Zealand government to have their players either relax  those quarantine restrictions or some other agreement ...there's all sorts of theories as to why New Zealand Rugby has taken this path today." 

He said New Zealand Rugby remains very upset that it lost the Rugby Championship over quarantine restrictions while Australia was happy to step up and be the hosts. 

There was not the best spirit between the two countries at present, Decent said, although he wouldn't go as far as saying it was "bad blood".  

If the All Blacks walked away from the final match, New Zealand Rugby would be in breach of contractual obligations and would be putting a lot of money at stake. 

There was massive money being offered by broadcasters for the Rugby Championship, and all four nations needed the funds at such a difficult time. 

Author and former Wallaby Peter Fitzsimons thinks there's still time for things to change.

He believes New Zealand Rugby will get its way and have the All Blacks home with their families for Christmas Day.

Speaking to Checkpoint, Fitzsimons said the All Blacks are used to holding sway and they remain the heart of the competition.

"When they pound the table, the table shakes." 

The competition would be undercut if the All Blacks did not play a full role in it, he said. 

"The administrators have to make sure they have a full-strength All Black team on the paddock, not simply men wearing black jerseys."