WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Head coach Ian Foster has not ruled out the All Blacks boycotting the last test of this year’s Rugby Championship in Australia over a scheduling dispute.
Foster on Tuesday repeated New Zealand Rugby’s assertion that southern hemisphere governing body SANZAAR changed the schedule at the last moment, breaching an agreement on dates.
New Zealand sought to play its last test in the four-nation championship at Sydney on Dec. 5, giving players time to complete 14 days of managed isolation on their return home and allowing them to be with their families for Christmas.
But when SANZAAR released the schedule last week, New Zealand was listed to play Australia in the last match of the tournament on Dec. 12, meaning players — many of whom have young families — would still be in quarantine on Christmas Day.
SANZAAR has denied changing the schedule without consulting New Zealand. But several parties, including broadcasters, reportedly were blindsided by the announcement.
Foster said he is “bitterly disappointed” that SANZAAR had broken its promise to ensure the All Blacks are home by Christmas Day.
Asked if the All Blacks would consider boycotting the final test, as has been hinted at, Foster was cautious but did not directly dismiss the possibility.
“I don’t want to talk about that now,” he said. “That’s a headline I don’t want to put out there but we’re bitterly disappointed that what was proposed got changed.
“We’re not basing on any schedule now because the schedule that’s been proposed is not one we agreed or accepted. This is not about a Christmas issue. It’s about players that have been playing and preparing to play through COVID and a whole lot of situations for a long, long time. At some point we’ve got to draw a line in the sand and say ‘that’s enough.'”
Foster said various options are being considered to break the impasse.
“There’s still a lot happening in that space,” he said. “There was a deal based on (Dec. 5) and we feel SANZAAR has reneged on that so we’ve put some solutions forward and we’re waiting on that. We have to fix it.
“There’s been set expectations and they haven’t been delivered on so that’s up to the game and SANZAAR to sort out in the next few days. We’ve got to sort out this little hiccup and get on with it. Today would be great, but we’ll accept tomorrow.”
New Zealand had been scheduled to host the Rugby Championship but lost the tournament to Australia because SANZAAR preferred Australia’s more lenient quarantine regulations.
As host, New Zealand planned a schedule which would have seen all teams complete their matches in time to return home for Christmas.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie this week said it would be hypocritical for Rugby Australian and SANZAAR to expect New Zealand players to miss Christmas with their families when New Zealand had been prepared to ensure the Australian and other players would not be disadvantaged.
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports