New Zealand premier plays down Bledisloe Cup biosecurity concerns
Jacinda Ardern believes a workable solution to make the matches happen will be found
Wellington — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has downplayed concerns that the country’s strict biosecurity regulations could lead to October’s Bledisloe Cup matches being moved to Australia or cancelled altogether.
New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and Rugby Australia (RA) have yet to work out details for the games, though October 17 and 24 have been pencilled in as potential dates.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, however, suggested on Sunday that NZR is pushing for a match on October 10 and said there is no way his team would be ready to play on that date given the biosecurity protocols in New Zealand.
While Australian media jumped on Rennie’s comments and said there is a chance RA would refuse to play, Ardern told a media conference on Monday she did not think that is likely. “I don’t anticipate that being an issue,” she said. “I believe we will be able to find a workable solution to make the Bledisloe Cup happen.”
New Zealand’s strict protocols, which mean teams would only be able to train in larger groups gradually as they go through the 14-day quarantine, were seen as one of the reasons it lost out to Australia for the Rugby Championship hosting rights.
Ardern said hosting the Wallabies for the Bledisloe Cup is a different proposition from the Rugby Championship, which also involves SA and Argentina, in terms of risk. More than a dozen Pumas players and coaches have tested positive for Covid-19 infections in the last two weeks.
“We are still working through logistics,” she said. “Keeping in mind … it is a different risk profile for teams from Australia than the likes of SA or Argentina.”
Ardern added the government would work with the dates that NZR and RA agreed upon. A NZR spokesman said no dates have been agreed yet.
New Zealand’s general election will take place on October 17 and Ardern said she feels confident the country can vote and watch a rugby game on the same day.
“I will be trying to do the same,” she said. “I think the most important thing is that New Zealanders get the chance to see that match.”
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