Sports

Political football: NZ PM intervenes in rugby dispute with Australia

FILE PHOTO: New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern speaks during a joint press conference at Admiralty House in Sydney

FILE PHOTO: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks during a joint press conference held with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at Admiralty House in Sydney, Australia, February 28, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott/File Photo

September 15, 2020

By Ian Ransom

(Reuters) – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday she had telephoned Australian counterpart Scott Morrison to defuse tensions over a scheduling dispute between the countries’ rugby teams.

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie warned New Zealand Rugby (NZR) on Sunday that his side would refuse to play a test against the All Blacks on Oct. 10 because COVID-19 protocols would not allow them to prepare properly.

Ardern told radio station Newstalk ZB she spoke to Morrison late on Monday to clear the air and said New Zealand would ease quarantine restrictions for the Wallabies to allow them to better prepare.

“I was made aware last night that there were a few little rumblings around the arrangements that we had in place,” Ardern said.

“Always better to get ahead of these things before they escalate …. I thought he might want to know there were a few discussions as to whether the Aussies were still going to come.”

New Zealand hope to host the Wallabies in two test matches in October after being disappointed to miss out on hosting the entire four-nation Rugby Championship to be held in November and December.

Governing body SANZAAR awarded the Rugby Championship, which involves Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina, to Australia last week.

Ardern said she had been advised by New Zealand’s Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield that the Wallabies could train after three days in their mandatory 14-day quarantine and as a full squad after six days.

“So, quarantine shouldn’t be an issue. We just want to make sure we go there and we go there and it is a fair arrangement,” Ardern said.

Australia’s protocols allow entire squads to train together in a biosecure bubble from day one of their 14-day quarantine.

Rugby Australia, the sport’s national federation, were unable to provide immediate comment.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing Peter Rutherford)

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