14 Sep 2020

Bledisloe Cup tests will go ahead - Grant Robertson

5:45 pm on 14 September 2020

The government says the Bledisloe Cup will go ahead despite Wallabies coach Dave Rennie saying the turnaround due to quarantine is too tight.

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Sport and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson. Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

Rennie has warned New Zealand Rugby (NZR) that his side won't be playing any Bledisloe Cup tests before 17 October, because coronavirus protocols would not allow them to prepare properly for it.

New Zealander Rennie named an extended 44-man squad on Sunday for two tests against the All Blacks before both sides head back to Australia for the southern hemisphere's Rugby Championship.

The two matches have not been confirmed but are pencilled in for 17 and 24 October, although earlier this year the matches were being considered for 10 and 17 October, something Rennie suggested was still being pushed.

"New Zealand Rugby's got an expectation that we jump on a plane a day after the Super Rugby final [19 September], have two weeks in quarantine where we can't prepare as a team and play a test seven days later," Rennie told reporters on Sunday.

"Under those quarantine arrangements, I can assure you we won't be playing a test that weekend [10 October]."

Rugby coach Dave Rennie.

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

New Zealand's strict bio-security protocols, where teams would only be able to gradually train in larger groups as they go through the 14-day isolation, was a primary reason why Australia were granted the Rugby Championship.

Minister for Sport and Recreation Grant Robertson said the government was working through the logistics of hosting the Wallabies.

"We've been working with sporting bodies for the last few months and I am extremely confident we will be able to host touring international teams," Robertson said.

"The most likely location for the Wallabies will be in Christchurch and it will be in a dedicated isolation facility and they will be able to bus to and from their training ground."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the risk profile of allowing the Wallabies to come here was a lot lower than other teams which have had positive cases of Covid-19.

One of the dates suggested is 17 October - the same day as the election - something Ardern is not worried by.

"We will find a workable solution so that the Bledisloe Cup will happen, I think New Zealanders are perfectly capable of engaging with the cup and the election, something I will be trying to do myself."

National Party spokesperson for sport and recreation Mark Mitchell said it was vital international teams should be able to quarantine as a group so they could train.

"Labour's lack of progress on border management and inability to put in place effective systems for contract tracing and testing has meant we've lost the Rugby Championship, it now appears we could lose the Bledisloe Cup for the same reasons."

Rugby commentator and former Wallabie Simon Fitzsimons said despite Rennie's comments, it was not actually his decision.

"When he says the team won't be playing under certain circumstances it's not his call, he is an employee of Rugby Australia which needs those games to go ahead to make the money to keep the ship afloat," Fitzsimons said.

"Taking on the All Blacks you want everything to be going your way, these are not ideal circumstances you can understand why they want more time on the ground and more time as a team, particularly because this is a first generation team coming together for the first time."

MC Peter FitzSimons. Westpac International Rugby Legends Gala Dinner, Sky City Convention Centre, Auckland 24 May 2011. Photo: Simon Watts/photosport.co.nz

Former Wallaby Peter Fitzsimons. Photo: Photosport NZ

Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Julie White said the event would provide a much-needed financial boost to bars and restaurants.

"It's a sense of occasion - that's what the hospitality sector brings, it's so important that we get this right, we not only get to host it but we need it commercially for our members."

White said with the second lockdown, more people wanted to get out and be social so it was likely venues would be busy with people watching the games.

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