Bledisloe Cup to continue as Australia granted travel exemption

Australia’s national rugby union team has been given an economic exemption to enter New Zealand to face the All Blacks in the first match of the Bledisloe Cup at Auckland’s Eden Park on August 7.

Travel between the two countries was suspended on Friday for at least eight weeks due to the escalating COVID-19 situation in Australia, with New Zealanders having been given a seven-day window to return home.

Exemptions to the travel ban are being considered on a case-by-case basis for people not normally resident in New Zealand to travel to the country from Australia within the return window for events which have “significant economic impacts”.

The Australian national team has been granted an exemption by the acting Minister for COVID-19 Response, Ayesha Verrall, on this basis. Decisions on the other two matches are dependent on ongoing discussions between New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia.

“This is important economically,” New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said. “A Test match is estimated to be worth between NZ$17m (£8.6m/€10m/$11.8m) to NZ$20m in spending for host regions, while the broadcast rights provide much needed income for the sport, which positively effects all levels of the game.

“Test rugby between the All Blacks and the Wallabies is keenly anticipated by New Zealanders, and I welcome the decision to allow the Australian team to travel given the game was less than two weeks away when trans-Tasman travel was suspended.

“The Wallabies have been operating in their own bubble for some time and will travel from their base in Queensland on a charter flight to Auckland on Friday morning. They will have to fulfil all normal obligations for travel including negative pre-departure tests within 72 hours of their travel.”

Perth’s Optus Stadium is due to host the second Bledisloe Cup Test on August 21 and the series is scheduled to return to New Zealand for the third and final match at Wellington’s Sky Stadium on August 28. These two matches will be dependent on talks between the respective national governing bodies.

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