Sanzaar boss hits back at NZ Rugby

Sanzaar chief Andy Marinos says the Rugby Championship will go ahead as planned despite New Zealand’s unhappiness with the schedule.

Sanzaar has announced the match schedule for the Championship, with the All Blacks scheduled to play Australia in Brisbane on Saturday, 7 November and Argentina the following Saturday in Sydney on 14 November.

The team is then scheduled to play back-to-back Tests against South Africa in Sydney on 21 November and Newcastle on Saturday, 28 November, with a second Test against Argentina on Saturday, 5 December in Sydney and a final scheduled match against the Wallabies in Sydney on Saturday, 12 December.

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Within a few minutes of the announcement, New Zealand Rugby responded with a media release expressing their disappointment in the schedule.

The sticking point is that the All Blacks will have to quarantine for two weeks when they return to New Zealand following their 12 December clash with the Wallabies and their players will be unable to spend Christmas Day with their families.

‘The 12th of December is an issue for New Zealand but we’ve exhausted every other option and only one at its very furthest – working through how best we can manage the quarantine,’ Marinos told reporters in a media conference in Sydney.

‘We’re going to have to do what we can to make sure we get the desired result for both parties.

‘There’s too much at stake,’ Marinos added when asked whether the Championship could be cancelled over the issue.

‘It’s just about how we can best manage individual needs of all the unions and this is the challenge we’ve got with the whole pandemic, there’s complexities at every single corner. Sometimes you’ve got to make a decision and go forward and work on the different permutations. At some stages we’ve gone down a particular path and Covid interactions make us change that path.’

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When asked about what could be done to move the final match weekend forward, Marinos said that Sanzaar was looking at different options, including tighter quarantine bubbles in Australia which could have the New Zealand government relax their restrictions when the All Blacks return.

‘Whether we put them into an isolation bubble for the last week to try and help aid any sort of quarantine on the other side,’ Marinos said. ‘By condemning it, the reality is we’re asking players to play six Test matches in six weeks is pretty arduous as it is with no breaks.

‘You want to condense that window any closer? I don’t think we have to look too far past what’s happened in the NRL in terms of the number of injuries to come out of this competition because of the intensity and the lack of preparation the guys had going back into a full season.

‘We’ve got to be cognisant of player welfare but there’s also player safety. You’ve got to manage players from a long-term perspective and make sure we’re not increasing their risk profile disproportionately that they could get serious career-ending injuries. We’ve got to manage the situation.’

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