New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson hit back at claims Rugby Australia was not consulted before the All Blacks pulled out of the now-cancelled Bledisloe Cup clash with the Wallabies.
- Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said he was “bloody angry” when the All Blacks withdrew from the third Bledisloe match set for next weekend
- New Zealand Rugby said they had been in communication with Rugby Australia from Wednesday last week about the possibility of a postponement
- South Africa leads the Rugby Championship and has offered to host the rest of the competition
The All Blacks had been due to travel to Perth for next Saturday’s third match in the Bledisloe Cup after winning the opening two encounters at Auckland’s Eden Park, only to withdraw citing COVID-19 restrictions.
The move has sparked a war of words between the two organisations, with Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marinos claiming the Australians had been blindsided by New Zealand Rugby’s “unilateral” decision.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, meanwhile, said he was “bloody angry” and that his players had learned about the cancellation via social media.
Robinson said that was not true.
“We had calls right through from Wednesday, Thursday, we put something in writing on Thursday and then we spoke to them before anything was released,” Robinson told Newstalk ZB on Saturday.
“Certainly I know that senior All Blacks and Wallabies were discussing the situation and our players were making them aware of the reality of our situation.
“It’s a shame that couldn’t get back to Dave and some of the people he’s referring to.”
The decision, which also caused the cancellation of the All Blacks’ home matches in The Rugby Championship against South Africa, infuriated Rennie.
“I just feel there is only one of us who are interested in doing what’s best for the game,” Rennie said on Friday.
Robinson said New Zealand Rugby had sought to work with the Australians over a late attempt to shift the game to Brisbane, but stressed NZR still planned to play the third Bledisloe Cup game.
Queensland remains a possible venue for the rescheduled Bledisloe Cup match as well as the remaining Rugby Championship games, along with Europe and South Africa.
“We tried to give Rugby Australia as much time as possible, until Friday afternoon, to have quarantine tidied up with Queensland,” Robinson said.
“We understand that Rugby Australia are under severe financial pressure. This is an important game for them and we are committed to playing that match.
“The reality is, under those circumstances, that frustration manifests with what we saw yesterday; a lot of emotion, a lot of frustration, sometimes possibly not all the information, and that’s the result of that.”
South Africa ‘would love to host’ remainder of Championship
Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber said South Africa was ready to host the remainder of the Championship after his side beat an ill-disciplined Argentina in Gqeberha overnight.
“We would love to host, it would be good for the country,” Nienaber told reporters after Saturday’s 29-10 victory.
“We have showed that in a pandemic we can host,” Nienaber said in relation to the recently concluded Lions tour, which was played without crowds.
“We have the protocols in place. But wherever it is the safest, and where we can get continuity in the tournament, we will play.
The Boks cruised to the win on Saturday, but a poor final 20 minutes saw them spurn a number of chances to earn a bonus-point try through errors at the set-piece.
Nienaber said that the decision to bring less experienced players off the bench was a factor but the overall goal is retaining the World Cup in 2023 and the need to grow their pool of talent.
“Our strategic goals will always be to win the Rugby Championship but looking into the future to 2023, you have to get experience into the broader squad.”
He admitted he was nervous this week about the win against a feisty Argentina, having claimed the first game 32-12 at the same venue.
“The pressure that we put on ourselves as a squad, I was very nervous of this test match and I thought the players were unbelievable in terms of how they stood up.”