Christmas in quarantine: All Blacks cry foul over Rugby Championship schedule

Christmas in quarantine: All Blacks cry foul over Rugby Championship schedule

New Zealand rugby officials are “disappointed” over the Rugby Championship schedule, saying they did not agree to a change in dates which could mean the All Blacks players spend Christmas in quarantine.

New Zealand Rugby released a statement on Thursday following the draw announcement saying the schedule had changed from the original plan, which had the last match set down for 5 December rather than 12 December.

The Wallabies and All Blacks will play the final match of the six-week tournament at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium.

Under New Zealand government guidelines the players must hotel quarantine for two weeks when they arrive home, meaning they now will not be out in time for Christmas with their families.

“We were working on the understanding and all our planning and scheduling was on the basis that the All Blacks last match would be on 5 December,” NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said in a statement.

“[This would] give our players and management time to get home, undertake the 14 days’ quarantine back in New Zealand, and then be with their families for Christmas, as will be the case for the other three teams in the tournament.

“We understand the commercial considerations in the scheduling. However, the wellbeing of our people is an incredibly important factor in this also. We haven’t agreed to this schedule and are disappointed at the announcement.”

Robinson said they were still committed to playing in the Rugby Championship and planned to work with Rugby Australia and Sanzaar to find a solution.

The schedule sees Bledisloe Cup Tests bookend the four-nation 2020 Rugby Championship, which kicks off in Brisbane on 7 November. The tournament, also involving world champions South Africa and Argentina, will be be played as six double-header fixtures.

The 12 December match doubles as the fourth Bledisloe Cup Test between the Wallabies and All Blacks, with the trans-Tasman rivals playing two in New Zealand next month before the Rugby Championship gets underway.

Australia won hosting rights for the Rugby Championship over New Zealand due to more relaxed quarantine conditions, with all but the opening Brisbane round to be played in New South Wales. The softening of Covid-19 guidelines will allow for potentially 40,000 spectators at ANZ Stadium and 25,000 at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.

ANZ Stadium and Bankwest Stadium will each host two rounds while one will be played at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle on Saturday 28 November, with the Wallabies against Argentina and South Africa taking on New Zealand.

The Rugby Championship will be the Springboks’ first Tests since winning the World Cup in Japan last year.

Inbound teams will be required to observe all health regulations around their squads as imposed by the NSW and Queensland governments while all sides will operate within a “bubble” during the tournament.