New Zealand’s players will be forced to miss spending Christmas with their families under the current schedule for The Rugby Championship 2020 which will see them play their final match on December 12, against Australia in Sydney.
Under current government guidelines, New Zealand residents must quarantine for two weeks away from home when they arrive back in the country, but the players will not have left Australia in time to complete their fortnight quarantine before Christmas Day.
On Thursday, New Zealand Rugby issued a statement soon after the fixture announcement saying they believed the All Blacks’ last match would be on Dec 5.
“We haven’t agreed to this schedule and are disappointed at the announcement,” said NZR chief executive Mark Robinson. “We understand the commercial considerations in the scheduling. However, the wellbeing of our people is an incredibly important factor in this also.”
New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern added, on the potential quarantine: “There was an agreement that those games would conclude by December 6 and if everyone sticks to that, then it wouldn’t be an issue.”
Rugby Australia has moved to deny any suggestion that they were involved in the scheduling clash, with boss Rob Clarke highlighting that the six-week schedule was not their fault. According to AAP, World champions South Africa and Argentina are believed to be the ones who pushed for the longer tournament.
“On two formal occasions Rugby Australia was supportive of altering the draw so that the Rugby Championship could be played over five weeks.... on both occasions, that proposal was rejected which means there was never an agreement to finish the tournament on Saturday 5 December 2020,” Clarke said.
NZ Rugby and the NZ Rugby Players Association were originally hoping that there would be midweek games in this year’s tournament – following the lead of the Gallagher Premiership – to ensure the tournament would be completed in good time before Christmas. But this has not been possible.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s participation in the 2020 competition remains conditional on the relaxation of the government’s current ban on international sporting participation and the outcome of assessments of high performance and player welfare issues.
Sanzaar explained the incoming teams (Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa) would be required to observe all health regulations around their squads as imposed by the New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland governments.
The teams will be kept separate by operating within a ‘bubble’ during this period, with all teams operating in clean environments controlled by NSW police.
Sanzaar CEO Andy Marinos said: “It has taken a lot of hard work to get to this point, but we are delighted that we can now confirm the match dates and venues for The Rugby Championship 2020. The Rugby Championship is one of the game’s showpiece events and includes some of the best rugby talent in the world.”