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Waratahs' Kiwi coach forced to 'plead his case' to return to Australia

Waratahs coach Rob Penney is drawing inspiration from the likes of Nelson Mandela as he deals with life in quarantine after almost being left stranded in New Zealand.

Rob Penney Source: Photosport

After making a mercy dash back to his homeland to be with his wife just before the coronavirus lockdown, Penney had to convince authorities to allow him to fly back to Australia where he went into mandatory isolation.

Holed up in a city hotel since Sunday night, Penney concedes life has been challenging - but not half as bad as it could have been.

He had to 'plead his case' at Christchurch airport before being allowed to fly.

"The people at Air New Zealand had to ring through to immigration in Australia to double check I could get access in - and initially I was rejected," the Kiwi said.

"It was a frightening half an hour while I waited to see if I was going to be confirmed on the flight."

The first-season Tahs coach then chronicled the painstaking ordeal he and 60 other passengers endured after landing in Sydney.

"We got given a face mask, we were initially tested with a thing in your ear to get your temperature then we were sent to immigration," he said.

"Got our bags, went through customs, then had to go through a channel with a lot of police and army, which would have been intimidating for some."

Penney then effectively boarded a mystery tour to his accommodation where he'd have to base for a fortnight.

"The army boys loaded the bags, we got on the bus, we didn't have any idea where were headed to. Even the bus driver didn't know until we got on," he said.

On arrival at the hotel, Penney had to provide a next of kin before receiving a debrief from police."

Unable to even open a window, he said he was just glad to be travelling alone.

"I wouldn't want to the family through this, particularly my wife," Penney said.

"We're outdoorsy people so this wouldn't have been good for her.

"(But) my glass is always half full so I'm just embracing it, doing what needs to be done.

"I can see if you let it get on top of you, it could be really challenging."

Penney is counting down the days and hours until 10 o'clock on Saturday week until "we get out of jail".

"I'm referring to my room as my cell - 1818 - and there's a lot of great people throughout history who have spent unwarranted time in cells," he said.

"So I'm trying to be as productive as I can and be as optimistic as I can.

"And when you look out the window to see what I've got to look forward to, look, there's a lot of people in worse situations so I would never certainly moan about it."