The Huddle: Does NZ Rugby have a problem with Australia, South Africa?

Author
Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 30 Sep 2020, 7:47PM
(Photo / Getty)
(Photo / Getty)

The Huddle: Does NZ Rugby have a problem with Australia, South Africa?

Author
Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 30 Sep 2020, 7:47PM

Listen above as Jack Tame and Shane Te Pou discuss the day's news with Heather du Plessis-Allan on The Huddle

The relationship between New Zealand Rugby and its Australian counterpart is at its "lowest ebb", says Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan.

The trans-Tasman rugby relationship has always been somewhat testy but the Covid-19 pandemic has placed extra pressure on both parties, particularly around what the future of competitions would look like.

The worldwide sporting shutdown put an end to Super Rugby as we know it, with both countries creating their own local competitions in 2020.

As discussions over the future of Super Rugby heated up, RA insisted on having all five teams as part of any future competition, while NZR disagreed and had its own ideas about what the competition should entail.

Meanwhile, Sanzaar gave Australia the hosting rights to the Rugby Championship due to superior quarantine and commercial reasons after New Zealand seemingly had it in the bag.

New Zealand were handed two Bledisloe tests – to be hosted in Wellington and Auckland – but Wallabies coach Dave Rennie objected to the country's strict quarantine protocols which didn't allow his squad to train in managed isolation.

After threats of a boycott from Rennie, the New Zealand Government eventually came up with a solution to allow the Wallabies to train as a group after three days.

According to McLennan, it's all led to a fractured relationship, which he hopes will be repairable over time.

"There is respect there, but I think the relationship is probably at the lowest ebb it's ever been at," McLennan told Sky Sport's The Breakdown. "I will try my hardest to fix that over time."

One of NZR's main recent complaints has been the six-week Rugby Championship schedule, in particular the last match against the Wallabies on December 12, which will force All Blacks players and staff to spend Christmas in managed isolation.

NZR says it agreed to a five-week schedule and a final gameweek of December 5, something both Sanzaar and RA disputes.

McLennan says RA initially agreed with NZR about a five-week schedule, but was forced to switch sides when South Africa and Argentina refused to budge. He says at the latest Sanzaar meeting, the dates were set and all parties involved agreed.

"On September 17 at a Sanzaar meeting those dates were agreed. We are really conscious of player welfare and trying to do the right thing by everyone. The schedule has been locked in, thus far, we know as of today there are some other options being put on the table so we need to reconcile those and have a look at it.

"On numerous occasions, and for the record, going back to August 27 we at RA said we'd be prepared to entertain a five-week competition but that was knocked on the head by New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina.

"And then on September 17 we voted with New Zealand for a five week competition but as you know it's Sanzaar who runs the joint venture so we were defeated in that regard and we moved towards locking in a six week competition."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this week that quarantine rules won't be changed to allow All Blacks players and staff to spend Christmas with their families after the Rugby Championship in Australia, but offered some hope that a "hot spot" approach to transtasman travel to a few Australian states could be possible before December 25.

McLennan says he hopes a resolution can be found, but urged NZR not to boycott the final game against the Wallabies if a solution can't be reached.

"I'm really concerned about a boycott," he said. "It would be a tragedy for the [Rugby Championship] and the game.

"It's 10 weeks away so we've seen the restrictions unwinding a little bit here. I think the New South Wales government has done a great job of contact tracing and managing the disease. We've had two days in a row where we've had no new Covid cases.

"So I think we need to just take a deep breath and stand back a little bit. Hope and plan that it works out well. At the moment we're feeling confident that all will be fine. But we are 10 weeks away from that happening."

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