By Liam Napier, NZ Herald

Sam Cane has reiterated New Zealand’s frustrations at being blindsided by the Rugby Championship scheduling announcement and the All Blacks captain believes a belated concession from SANZAAR to avoid his side quarantining through Christmas is not too much to ask.

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Cane is preparing to lead the All Blacks against the Wallabies next week in Wellington for the first time since succeeding Kieran Read as national skipper. That opening Bledisloe Cup test has, however, been completely overshadowed by SANZAAR releasing the Rugby Championship draw without New Zealand Rugby’s agreement, and the standoff that has since ensued.

As far as Cane and the All Blacks were aware, they would return home from Australia at the completion of the tournament on the weekend of December 5 to avoid quarantining through Christmas.

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What are the expectations for this All Blacks side going into the Rugby Championship?

“We were a little bit blindsided by that,” Cane said of the Rugby Championship draw announcement as the All Blacks trained in Hamilton this week. “Our expectation and understand was we would be out of quarantine by the 20th or 21st.

“The first reaction was ‘that’s not my understanding, where has this come from?’ I got on the phone to Fozzie pretty quickly and he was in much the same boat – he said ‘we didn’t see this coming, we’re working on it’. He’s got a pretty calm head. We got on a chat with the leaders pretty quickly and confirmed this isn’t the plan and we’re not just going to roll over and accept this.

“All you can really do is try and reassure everyone that we’ll do our best to get it under control and get it on grounds that suit us, ideally.

“We don’t consider it a big ask, considering what we’re going to be going over there and doing.

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“We’re a little bit taken back by that but we’ve been assured that New Zealand Rugby and the NZ Rugby Players’ Association are doing their best to work with Australian and South African Rugby to make some changes and we’ll find some common ground.

“From a players’ point of view we’re trying really hard not to worry about those things that are beyond our control. This is our first week of preparing to play a test match so that’s where our heads are at.”

Cane’s reaction comes one day after All Blacks coach Ian Foster said he was bitterly disappointed with the Rugby Championship schedule but he remained hopeful a resolution could be reached this week.

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From New Zealand Rugby’s perspective, the prospect of quarantining through Christmas seems non-negotiable which leaves SANZAAR with the option of moving the final All Blacks and Wallabies test forward from the scheduled December 12 date.

“Yeah, it doesn’t excite us overly much,” Cane said of quarantining at Christmas.

“It’s not our fight to fight. What is ours is preparing for these two test matches against Australia. To have that certainty after so much uncertainty leading up to now is pretty awesome. For players that gives us a clear focus of what’s coming next after a few months of wondering what’s coming next.”

This article first appeared on nzherald.co.nz and was republished with permission.

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