All Blacks coach Ian Foster has admitted to being frustrated that New Zealand’s quarantine rules meant the Rugby Championship will be played in Australia.
Last week, it was confirmed by SANZAAR that Australia would host the tournament, with New Zealand missing out on hosting because rules meant Australia, Argentina and South Africa’s full squads could not train together while in quarantine.
“The Rugby Championship is well documented. I don't want to talk about that too much . They won it fair and square, and good on them. But fact is one of the reasons they won it was [the] quarantine situation,” Foster said.
“It's played out. We were frustrated we couldn’t duplicate their quarantine situation, but there are obviously, clearly reasons for it.
“Now we've been able to change our quarantine situation that allows sufficient preps for an international team.”
As frustrated as Foster was by the inflexibility of border protocols for the Rugby Championship, he said he was “delighted” that there had been a change to give the Wallabies necessary preparation time for the two Bledisloe Cup Tests to be played in New Zealand.
“To stand here and have eliminated the reasons they can't come...is very satisfying,” Foster said.
“We're not treating this as a personal issue, we've got two sides of Tasman, we're just trying to deal with all the variables of quarantining and what it looks like. A whole lot of stuff we don’t know. It’s made it hard for Australia and the All Blacks to get their planning done."
“We're trying to plan on a nine-week stint in Australia, which is fine. But if we move the Bledisloes back to where the Aussies want us to move them - they want us to play Test on Saturday - then embark on Sunday with 46 players to Australia, without having sufficient time to assess medically or give any player welfare family time, we want a bit of time after the second Bledisloe."
"They've asked for more time after Super Rugby final on 19th. Now they've got two or three clear days to make those assessments before they come over and have adequate preparation time - not only adequate, it's equal to ours.”
Foster denied that it was all take and no give from Dave Rennie and the Wallabies, saying that Tests in New Zealand didn’t necessarily have to be played on Saturday.
“Everyone's fighting for their corner to get preparation right,” he said.
“Whether we even move to Sunday to give them an extra day, there's a whole lot of things we're trying to do so that it works for them. But at the end of the day I think we've got a responsibility to honour the legacy of a Bledisloe series and play it."
Both the Bledisloe Tests and the Rugby Championship are critically important to the finances of NZ Rugby, as well as the governing bodies in Australia, Argentina and South Africa.
“It's vital for both sides of the Tasman, it's vital for South Africa and Argentina. That's why four countries voted on the Rugby Championship and to play it.
“But to us, it's a massive opportunity to represent country in a massively difficult year. I even hear talk from a South African ex-captain, that the Springboks shouldn't come because they might lose their world ranking with their preparation."
“Well let’s can world rankings this year - who really cares? What's more important is we get game on the park, we get some international rugby on the park and let people enjoy it.
“Of course, we want to win and be number one, but I'd hate to let that stand in the road of us playing international rugby.”