A two-week quarantine period upon arrival in Australia for the upcoming Rugby Championship could see the All Blacks play in the competition without some of their best players.
According to RNZ, both of the All Blacks first fives, Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga, are understood to be unwilling to spend up to 10 weeks away from their young families.
The quarantine restrictions would force the All Blacks into a month of quarantine as they leave and return to New Zealand for the competition, which also features South Africa and Argentina and is set to run from November 7 to December 12.
A fortnight of quarantine on the return trip home in December would also force the All Blacks to spend Christmas Day away from loved ones, and it is being reported that that would be too significant of a hurdle to overcome.
Mo’unga and his wife welcomed their firstborn child last month, while Barrett will become a father for the first time within the next month.
It’s not just the two playmakers who are reported to be disinterested in making the lengthy trip across the Tasman, with RNZ stating that halfback TJ Perenara, who also has a newborn baby, wants to stay in New Zealand.
Elsewhere, wing Sevu Reece’s partner is reportedly set to give birth next month, and there are a host of other players within the national set-up who have young children and may replicate the stance taken by some of the squad’s key men.
The result could leave the All Blacks with a significantly understrength side to the 35-man team Ian Foster named over a week ago as they prepare to host two Bledisloe Cup tests in New Zealand before departing for Australia.
Speaking to media after Canterbury’s season-opening win over North Harbour on Friday, Codie Taylor acknowledged it would be “tough” spending so much time away from home.
“I’m still working through it mentally, but there will be processes in place,” he said.
“The All Blacks environment is like a home.
“It’ll be tough being away from the family and kids, but people have to do it all over the work.
“You always want to play at home, even if it was behind closed doors with an empty crowd.
“With what’s going on, it’s what you have to do to get out on the paddock.”
It’s a sentiment that his All Blacks teammates George Bridge and Rieko Ioane agree with, but both suggested that players need to adapt in these turbulent times.
“We haven’t got the full details around times and dates, but that’s the way it is. It’s been a rough year and you just have to be adaptable,” Bridge said after Canterbury’s victory in Albany.
“There was some chat about the Rugby Championship being played in New Zealand, but it’s good to see we will have a couple of test matches here.”
Following Auckland’s 38-6 thumping of Otago in Dunedin on Saturday, Ioane told Stuff: “It is what it is.
“You take the good with the bad, but it’s going to be a bit of a drag the last bit.
“Of the top of my head TJ [Perenara] and Richie [Mo’unga] are new fathers.
“It’s not something they’ll want to do but I think it’s something they have to do.
“Everyone will support them but it’ll definitely be a tough time for them.”
New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson has already offered support to those players who would opt against travelling to Australia for health or personal reasons.
“We are hugely supportive of our players – we know they have gone through an incredibly tough time this year,” he said in a statement last week.
“This challenge of what they are about to undertake is going to be significant and we will back them and their families in whatever way we need to ensure they are looked after.”
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