Ian Foster has rubbished reports that a number of All Blacks senior 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.
Reports from New Zealand over the weekend suggested that 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, could be facing a decision over whether to take part in the tournament.
Speaking to the media on Monday, All Blacks coach Foster said a number of his star players could be set to make themselves unavailable for the Rugby Championship.
Foster also confirmed that plans were being worked on to wrap the Rugby Championship up by 5 or 6 December. The proposed new finish of the tournament would allow players to be back with their families by 19 December.
‘The way they were reported was not correct,’ Foster said. ‘They were quoting players that weren’t quoted. I’m not sure how people can get away with that.
‘There was a lot of media saying they were going to be coming out at Christmas. We’ve been able to get facts around that and, now we’re getting more information, we’re talking to players one by one and looking at their situations.
‘Every player is going to be slightly different. But I haven’t heard from any player they’re not coming. What I’ve heard from some players is they’ve got some questions, and that’s a completely different thing and purely natural.’
Regarding the upcoming Bledisloe Cup fixtures against the Wallabies, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday announced that quarantine details had been changed to allow the Australian squad to start training three days after their arrival in New Zealand.
Based on this, Foster was confident that the Wallabies would agree to travel to New Zealand, as they would now have a 13-day preparation period leading into the first Test.
‘I expect them to hop on a plane and come and play us that weekend [13 October],’ Foster said. ‘They’ll have nine full days of training in isolation, then another four full days out which effectively gives them 13 full days. That equates to the All Blacks’ preparation time of a three-day camp, a four-day camp and then a six-day Test week.
‘[That] has given us a situation that both teams have sufficient, adequate and equal time to prepare and I can’t wait for them to come over.’
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