'Labour’s failure to act' - Rugby Championship, to be held in Australia, becomes election fodder

New Zealand Rugby has confirmed the Rugby Championship will be played in Australia after the All Blacks host the Wallabies for two Bledisloe Cup Tests in October.

NZ Rugby CEO Mark Robinson said he was disappointed by SANZAAR’s decision to play the Rugby Championship in Australia.

"We're obviously disappointed at the decision to not have New Zealand host the tournament, but we understand and accept it,” he said.

"We worked incredibly hard behind the scenes with a whole range of stakeholders, including SANZAAR and the New Zealand Government, to ensure we were ready and able to host the championship and we felt we were.  We'd like to thank everyone involved for working so hard on the planning to have the tournament here."

The details of the Bledisloe Cup Tests will be announced in due course, NZ Rugby said in a statement.

"Those two matches will be massive for our fans and the All Blacks. We know that the Bledisloe Cup is the pinnacle of trans-Tasman rivalry and there will be huge anticipation ahead of those matches," Robinson said.

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Mark Robinson said NZ’s quarantine protocols were “material” to Australia hosting the tournament. Source: 1 NEWS

SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos said organisers were delighted to “put an end to the continued speculation about the tournament’s format and location”.

“SANZAAR ultimately determined that based on government-required quarantine protocols and commercial underwriting the Rugby Australia submission was the most desirable and workable in terms of tournament logistics for the essential pre-tournament preparation period and the six-week tournament itself," Marinos said in a statement.

The participation of the world champion Springboks is yet to be confirmed and is dependant on the relaxation of international sporting competition by the South African government, Marinos said.

Jacinda Ardern: 'SANZAAR politics' to blame if Australia hosts Rugby Championship

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier today blamed the decision to play the Rugby Championship in Australia on SANZAAR politics, saying teams were able to train after three days if the tournament was played in Aotearoa.

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Jacinda Ardern blamed SANZAAR politics for the reported decision to play the Rugby Championship in Australia. Source: 1 NEWS

Robinson denied it was SAANZAR politics at play and said the quarantine protocols were "material to this decision".

"Ultimately, [quarantine protocols] meant that the Australians had a really positive environment which teams could fly into and prepare," he said.

New Zealand's protocols would see overseas players quarantine individually initially before being allowed to train in bubbles of 15 from day five to seven, Robinson said.

"There is a lot of speculation out there at the moment because this is something that is really dear to our country."

Sport and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson said the six new Covid-19 cases in the Argentinean team meant it was too risky to allow full squads to train together in quarantine.

“We offered flexible quarantine arrangements that would have seen players able to train after spending three days in isolation and returning a negative test,” Robertson said.

“Given the six recent cases in the Pumas, and with community outbreaks in Australia and South Africa, it would be risky to go further than that and allow players to walk off a plane and go straight into training in a full team environment.

“Our flexible isolation proposal had the added bonus of protecting the tournament. If one player goes down with Covid they run the risk of infecting their whole team and putting the Rugby Championship in jeopardy, whereas we would have isolated cases at day three.”

Robertson said he believed New Zealand’s offer was “a very competitive proposal”, particularly given Aotearoa was the best prospect to have full stadiums.

National’s sport & recreation spokesperson Mark Mitchell said the Government had been “clumsy and incompetent” in its handling of the Rugby Championship bid.

“This is a massive blow for New Zealand. Being able to host such a significant international sporting event would have provided jobs and an economic boost when we need it most.

“Labour’s failure to act has cost New Zealand valuable job creation and Australia will reap the benefits now.”

Mitchell said hosting the Rugby Championship would have been a much-needed boost for the events industry.

 “At a time when our hospitality and events sector is on its knees, Labour’s complacency has lost New Zealand our premier sporting brand to Australia.

“We have not only lost the hosting rights, we have lost the jobs and opportunity that hosting this tournament would bring.”