Respected New Zealand writer GREGOR PAUL says the decision to reward Australia with the Rugby Championship hosting rights was a victory for their mindset of looking for what they can – rather than can’t – do around pandemic health guidelines.
Sanzaar confirmed on Friday that Australia would be hosting the 2020 edition of the tournament, which had initially looked likely to be played in New Zealand, with reports suggesting that the latter country’s strict quarantine regulations was the deal breaker that made Sanzaar opt for Australia as host nation.
‘Sport and politics have never mixed well in New Zealand and now that Australia has been confirmed as Rugby Championship hosts, there is yet one more episode to say life is better when the two don’t collide,’ Paul wrote in the New Zealand Herald.
‘New Zealand being preferred as hosts of a major rugby event only to then lose it to Australia, has happened before – and while there will be those who say New Zealand losing the 2003 World Cup hosting rights can’t be compared with New Zealand losing the 2020 Rugby Championship, they absolutely can.
‘What’s different in the Rugby Championship saga is that the lead character, chief villain if you like, is the New Zealand Government rather than the New Zealand Rugby Union. NZR reasoned with the Government for months that there were ways in which foreign teams could be safely brought into the country and managed through quarantine while still managing to train, but it was to no avail.
‘The Government insisted training bubbles couldn’t exceed 25 people and on this, frankly, arbitrary basis the Rugby Championship was lost to Australia. Money didn’t swing the vote Australia’s way. They created a practical means to quarantine foreign teams and won the Championship hosting rights on a ticket of convenience.
‘None of this is to denigrate the seriousness of the virus or to downplay its potential impact, it’s to point out that no matter what anyone says, the government didn’t have to see the situation as one where it would be risking the health of the entire nation by compromising its stance on the quarantine rules for visiting teams.
‘Australia didn’t and the decision to reward them with the Rugby Championship is a victory not so much for their entrepreneurial spirit as for their mindset of looking for what they can – rather than can’t – do around pandemic health guidelines.’
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