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Rugby Australia fumes after NZ counterparts stay at home

Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marinos has hit out after New Zealand Rugby pulled out of an upcoming Test match in Perth, citing COVID-19 uncertainties.

The All Blacks were due to fly to Perth on Sunday ahead of the Bledisloe Cup Test at Optus Stadium (pictured) on August 28, which is also a fixture in the southern hemisphere’s top rugby union tournament, The Rugby Championship, operated by SANZAAR.

However, after the New Zealand government put the country into a snap lockdown earlier this week following the discovery of a single COVID-19 case – which has since led to 31 cases being identified at the latest count – New Zealand Rugby opted against sending the squad to Australia.

The move, which Rugby Australia described as a “unilateral decision”, means the All Blacks’ upcoming home fixtures against South Africa on September 25 and October 2, as well as two scheduled clashes between the women’s teams of New Zealand and Australia, have also been called off.

“It’s incredibly disappointing to be informed of this decision via the media, despite having a conversation with the [New Zealand Rugby] CEO [Mark Robinson] moments before and there [was] no mention that this was the intention,” Marinos said.

Marinos added that he felt that discussions, which also featured the Western Australia Government, had been positive, and all parties were “close to finding a solution”.

Robinson, who confirmed that ticket-holders would be refunded, said: “Without complete certainty on the team’s next movements around The Rugby Championship we felt it was prudent for the team to stay put in New Zealand until SANZAAR have announced the full tournament schedule.

“Once the team leaves our shores, they currently can’t return until November 23 post their Northern Tour, so given the uncertainty, it makes sense to pause and get more clarity on these fixtures.”

He added: “We remain 100% committed to playing in the entire Fortinet Rugby Championship in 2021 and are working closely with SANZAAR to look at a range of options to reschedule these important matches.”

Image: Tama Leaver/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size