All Blacks are due to travel to Australia as they seek Bledisloe series sweep, but New Zealand may require an exemption as fresh lockdown measures throw the Rugby Championship fixture into doubt
The office of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed a string of at least 10 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, almost all of whom have the highly infectious Delta variant.
Reports have suggested the outbreak is connected to a recent surge in cases originating in New South Wales, Australia, throwing upcoming sports events into disarray.
New Zealand opened their 2021 Rugby Championship campaign with a record-breaking 57-22 win over Australia on Saturday, with the teams set to face off again at Optus Stadium in Perth.
But West Australian (WA) Premier Mark McGowan said on Wednesday the planned rematch on August 28 now looks uncertain: “We are not sure.
“Maybe we have to work out some arrangement, or there may be a bubble, or they just have comply with the rules that exist for everybody else.
“It’s a moving situation and it would be disappointing for rugby fans if we are forced to cancel the game, but that is the nature of the world we live in.’’
Stuff.co.nz reported New Zealanders travelling to Perth will now have to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival, meaning the All Blacks would require an exemption in order to make the trip.
McGowan’s comments regarding “some arrangement” offer hope that the two nations can find a compromise for the game to go ahead.
However, the Premier was candid in suggesting the fixture may be scrapped, with coach Ian Foster’s All Blacks scheduled to fly out to Australia on Sunday, six days before the third Test.
The Wallabies recently received a similar pass to travel and play in Auckland for back-to-back Bledisloe fixtures, both of which were won by hosts New Zealand at Eden Park.
It bodes well that the Australian government has deemed New Zealand’s Covid-19 threat ‘low-risk’, but both countries have been strict in their approach to containing the virus.
RugbyWA chief executive Nathan Charles told reporters there was a precedent with other sports adapting to spikes, though those related to games played almost exclusively between Australian teams.
“We’ve got to be very agile in the current environment,” he said.
“It’s happened with the AFL (Aussie rules) and NRL (National Rugby League), all the major sporting codes, they’ve had to provide some flexibility, and with a game of this magnitude, I think there will have to be some sort of flexibility.
“What that looks like, I don’t know.”
This year’s Bledisloe Cup has already been decided ahead of the dead rubber match on August 28, although the Rugby Championship is only entering its second week.