Reports in New Zealand suggest that several key All Blacks players could opt against playing in the Rugby Championship for family reasons.
Sanzaar’s decision to award the hosting rights of the Rugby Championship to Australia, has added an extra complication for New Zealand Rugby as the All Blacks players and staff are set for an unusual lengthy stay during the festive season in their neighbouring country.
The Rugby Championship is scheduled to run from 7 November to 12 December. If the All Blacks were to fly back to New Zealand on 13 December, they would to go into 14 days of mandatory quarantine upon arrival in their home country, meaning they will all miss Christmas with their families as they will only be out of isolation on 27 December.
According to StuffNZ, that decision will be particularly acute for Beauden Barrett, whose wife is expecting a baby by the end of the month, and Richie Mo’unga and TJ Perenara, who became fathers for the first time recently.
NZR chief executive Mark Robins has confirmed that any All Black who isn’t comfortable with participating in the Rugby Championship will be given the choice to opt out of competing in the tournament, especially given the length of time they will be away from family. All Blacks coach Ian Foster has already named a 35-man squad, but has been given the green light to add 11 more players before travelling to Australia, in case he loses key players.
‘We want to make sure whoever is representing the All Blacks does so in a safe environment where they feel happy and comfortable. Some of those conversations started earlier today with understanding where players and management line up with their different circumstances,’ said Robinson.
‘We are hugely supportive of our players, we know they have gone through an incredibly tough time this year. This challenge of what they are about to undertake is going to be significant and we will back them and their families in whatever way we need to ensure they are looked after. If that means they are unable to assemble or travel we’ll hear that out and support that.
‘Those conversations have been active between Sanzaar, Rugby Australia and New Zealand for some time. Both countries have schedules where the dates of games could be played on the last round on 5 or 6 December.
‘We know in Australia there are a lot of teams that have been away from their homes for some time. Our guys will be on the road for nine or 10 weeks, so we’re very mindful of where they’ll be at Christmas.’