Sir John Kirwan has sent an impassioned message to the Government around the lack of progress made around All Blacks tests this year.
Speaking on Sky Sport‘s The Breakdown, where he is a co-host of the show, the All Blacks legend called out the Government over the roadblocks around creating a tournament to bring teams into the country to face the national rugby side.
“What’s upset me the most is we’ve created an amazing environment in New Zealand. Even this last lockdown was only in Auckland,” Kirwan said.
“Our Prime Minister said the other day it can happen. I don’t know why the tournament is not here. How can Fiji go to London? Why aren’t we having this competition in New Zealand with England, with whoever it is?
“We’ve made all this sacrifice to make it the safest country in the world and what is happening? I heard it’s going to be in Brisbane. Like I said, Fiji is going North. What is happening?”
Kirwan’s comments come after several leading sports administrators made pleas to the Government about the need to open borders in a controlled manner to allow international teams into the country, otherwise professional sports could be in huge trouble.
The prospect of having All Blacks tests this year – in New Zealand or abroad – has been a mystery, with fresh doubts emerging following several setbacks around the Bledisloe Cup and the Rugby Championship.
New Zealand Rugby hopes to play test matches against at least Australia and a Pacific team, and possibly hosting the Rugby Championship – featuring Australia, South Africa and Argentina – later this year.
However, doubts have emerged over the logistical difficulties of securing locations for visiting nations to train while in quarantine, as strict border restrictions continue due to the pandemic.
News over the weekend that six players from the Pumas tested positive for Covid-19 added fresh doubts over the likelihood of the four-nation tournament going ahead.
NZ Rugby is more hopeful of a Bledisloe Cup series against the Wallabies but that has also been complicated by border restrictions and a resurgence of the virus in both countries.
Rugby Australia recently announced that the Bledisloe test scheduled to be held in Melbourne this year would be postponed to 2022, while reports from the Sydney Morning Herald suggest Australia are about to pinch the Rugby Championship from New Zealand due to “superior commercial modelling and quarantine conditions”.
A meeting is being held by Sanzaar, the governing body of the Rugby Championship and Super Rugby, on Thursday, with a decision on the future of the competitions reportedly set to be announced this weekend.
Kirwan called on Minister of Sport and Recreation Grant Robertson to figure out a way to bring other nations into New Zealand to play sport in a safe way, saying the country needs to see the fruits of its labour around the sacrifices made from stringent lockdowns and its status as one of the safest countries in the world.
“Grant Robertson is our Minister of Sport. Come on mate, let’s do this. I know you’re saying ‘we can’t do this for the normal people and this for [professional sport]’. I disagree. Sport is an integral part of how we feel good. How good was it for us to watch sport during Covid? Straight out of Covid, all the people turned up. So we need to make exceptions for our sports people by doing the right things.
“I’m sure if you ask New Zealand, put them two weeks in quarantine in their own country, fly them down in a private jet – and I’m not just saying rugby, I’m saying our golfers [etc.] – let’s use New Zealand at the moment to create some real sporting events.
“Yeah we might have to change a couple of rules, but I’m sure we can look after the country and do that.”
Kirwan, who scored 35 tries in 63 tests for New Zealand, also questioned the lack of transparency at New Zealand Rugby and the radio silence around All Blacks tests this year.
“I also want to know why the New Zealand Rugby union is not putting some pressure on. Why are we so quiet? Where’s our transparency, people? We need to know. We don’t know what’s happening on Thursday night.
“Why can’t we come out and talk about this stuff in the public domain. We all have a right to know because we’ve all made these sacrifices.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that there is a “real possibility” of All Blacks tests and the Rugby Championship being held in New Zealand, but admitted it is “not just down to us”.
Robertson echoed the Prime Minister’s comments, saying the Government is working on hosting sporting events in New Zealand but said the safety of New Zealanders is the top priority.
“We’re currently working through with a number of sports around what they would like to happen …we’ve been working with rugby, we’ve been also talking to cricket and netball, and there are others who are now interested,” Robertson said in reaction to pleas from three leading sports administrators to relax Covid-19 border restrictions.
“I want as many sporting competitions as we can possibly get [but] clearly our priority has to be to keep New Zealanders safe and that will remain at the top of our list.”
Robertson added that Government support since the lockdown in March has kept many sporting organisations afloat but that work is being done to ensure Kiwis “get to see their heroes in action”.
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