New Zealand Rugby has confirmed a string of changes to the All Blacks’ summer schedule, which includes both of their upcoming Argentina Tests being moved across the Tasman to Australia.
A spike in Covid-19 cases across multiple Australian cities has forced a pause to the Trans-Tasman travel bubble, forcing New Zealand to reconsider their summer slate.
Sports fixtures have become more complicated as a result of the changes, which would mean visiting teams (and returning New Zealand players) would have to quarantine for two weeks upon re-entry.
The All Blacks were always scheduled to host the Wallabies at Eden Park this Saturday before facing Australia in two Rugby Championship fixtures to complete a three-Test Bledisloe Cup series.
Sky Stadium in Wellington was due to host the second of those on August 14 before travelling to Perth for the third and final encounter on August 28, but the former will now also be played in Auckland.
New Zealand Rugby chief Mark Robinson said it was a difficult but necessary decision to give up the two home Tests against Argentina, which will now be played at yet-to-be-determined venues in Australia.
“It is particularly disappointing we will not be able to play in Wellington this season and we share the disappointment of fans, the venue and the city, but at short notice following the closure of the travel bubble with Australia it just proved too difficult,” Robinson said.
“It’s also disappointing not to be able to host Argentina, but the eight-week pause to the trans-Tasman travel bubble meant it just wasn’t possible to get the team into the country.
“Sky Stadium, Wellington Rugby and WellingtonNZ did everything they could to try and keep the Test in Wellington, but ultimately we needed to play on Saturday 14 August and we had to make the difficult decision to shift the match to Auckland.”
The Pumas are now on course to face New Zealand in Australia on September 11 and September 18, but dates and times could be subject to change.
John Allen, chief executive of WellingtonNZ, also published a statement noting his disappointment that the capital would not host any games this summer.
He said New Zealand Test matches “pump $6-$8million (£3-4m) into the local economy,” highlighting Australia matches tend to draw particularly big crowds to the city.
The Wallabies may hold some resentment towards the changes considering it now means they’ll have to play back-to-back fixtures at Eden Park, where they haven’t won a game since 1986.
Argentina will be more content having their fixture moved to Australia after they defeated the All Blacks for the first time on their 30th attempt at Sydney’s Bankwest Stadium last November.
The schedule alterations also mean New Zealand’s players will have to be vaccinated before travelling to Australia, delaying their Wallabies clash in Perth by a week to August 28.
The team originally intended to stay in safe travel zones where vaccinations weren’t compulsory.
However, the recent movement means players wouldn’t have received their second vaccine doses in time to meet the original August 21 match date.
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