Fresh doubts have been cast over the prospect of the Rugby Championship getting off the ground following revelations that the All Blacks may have to travel to Australia to play the first two matches of a four-match Bledisloe Cup series.
That is according to the New Zealand Herald, which has reported that the All Blacks are “expected” to play the opening two Bledisloe Cup matches of the year in Queensland.
As a result, Ian Foster’s squad would have to undergo a one-month quarantine period as they leave and return to New Zealand, which would have significant implications on both a warm-up match against a Moana Pacific side and the Mitre 10 Cup.
New Zealand Rugby had hoped to stage the opening Bledisloe Cup match in Wellington on October 10, but New Zealand’s new COVID-19 outbreak earlier this month has created uncertainty about the feasibility of that happening.
That has led to the “likely” possibility of the All Blacks taking on the Wallabies on the Gold Coast – where the Herald reports that Wallabies coach Dave Rennie will take a 46-man squad to quarantine for two weeks – and in Brisbane on October 10 and October 17, respectively.
Travelling between New Zealand and Australia throws the All Blacks’ planned warm-up fixture against a Moana Pacific side at Mt Smart Stadium on October 3 into doubt, as Foster’s side would need to leave for Queensland by September 25.
Additionally, the Mitre 10 Cup is scheduled to kick-off on September 11, leaving provincial teams without their All Blacks and top Super Rugby players for the majority of their campaign.
The Herald also reports that the Rugby Championship is facing further complications as the three visiting teams – the Wallabies, Springboks and Pumas – as well as the All Blacks themselves are unable to all quarantine in New Zealand at the same time.
Reported plans to quarantine the offshore teams in Queenstown have been thwarted by revelations that all of those sides would instead need to stagnate their two-week quarantine periods, which would eat into the proposed kick-off date of November 7.
According to the Herald, Argentina are willing to travel to New Zealand early and play warm-up matches against provincial teams.
However, six Pumas players – Javier Ortega Desio, Tomas Lezana, Santiago Carreras, Santiago Chocobares, Jose Luis Gonzalez and Federico Wegrzyn – have been hit with positive COVID-19 cases since Mario Ledesma’s 46-man training squad assembled in Buenos Aires in recent weeks.
Players in South Africa, meanwhile, are yet to play since Super Rugby was suspended in March as the country’s total number of coronavirus cases surge past 618,000, all of which further clouds the likelihood of the Rugby Championship taking place this year.
Foster will name a 35-man All Blacks squad the day after next Saturday’s North vs South clash in Wellington.
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