New Zealand Rugby chief Mark Robinson has responded to Australian anger over the decision not to send the All Blacks to Perth for Bledisloe 3, saying NZR were “comfortable” with the way events unfolded and making a pointed reference to their rivals’ “emotion”.
Rugby Australia CEO Andy Marinos accused Robinson of blindsiding him, saying he spoke to him on the phone just before NZR released a statement calling off their visit and Robinson didn’t mention the plans.
“It’s incredibly disappointing to be informed of this decision via the media, despite having a conversation with the CEO moments before and there no mention that this was the intention,” Marinos said in a statement.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie was also furious, saying he was “bloody angry” with the NZR decision and adding that his players found out the match was postponed via social media.
Adding to Rennie’s anger was the fact Australia had made changes to their travel and game schedule over the past few weeks to allow New Zealand to host back-to-back Bledisloe Tests at Eden Park.
There were reports that New Zealand had given Australia a midday deadline for a decision on the Perth Test and subsequent rounds of The Rugby Championship, and had put out the statement after RA had asked for an extension.
On Saturday, the New Zealand Herald quoted Robinson as sticking by his guns.
“We don’t accept this has been a unilateral decision,” Robinson said.
“We have been communicating right through the week with SANZAAR and Rugby Australia and made it very clear to them the risks and concerns we had.
“We understand the emotion coming out of there but are really comfortable with the rationale that we’ve put in behind the decision and comfortable we’re standing behind our people.
“We can understand the frustration and disappointment from Rugby Australia about the fact we are unable to travel tomorrow night. We have a huge amount of sympathy for them and the impact this has on the match in Perth for next weekend.
“We are absolutely committed to playing that game at some stage and we’ll work as hard as we possibly can to make that happen with them.
“Getting into a whole lot of speculation around who said what when doesn’t really matter at the moment. It doesn’t help anything, doesn’t help us go forward. We’re focused on trying to find a solution to what balances our need to look after our people with our commitment to wanting to make this tournament go ahead.”
There have been a number of options raised for the third Bledisloe match, including in Perth on September 4, in Queensland or in Europe with games in France and Britain.
The NZ Herald reports there is a possibility the third Bledisloe could be played on October 9 at Wembley.
“They are options that are being seriously considered,” Robinson told the NZ Herald about the potential to play in Europe.
“When you look around the world at the moment there are a lot of things happening around sport and entertainment that are different to what we’ve previously considered as normal in the past. This is just another example of that.”
South Africa has also offered to host the remainder of the tournament.
“We have advised SANZAAR that we are ready and able to host the remainder of the competition in South Africa, pending our Government’s approval,” said SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux.
“But we are now well-versed in turning on rugby Tests within the prevailing COVID restrictions and have the venues and accommodation necessary. We just need the go-ahead.”
“We would love to stay here, but we will play anywhere,” Springboks captain Siya Kolisi added ahead of their match against Argentina.
“There are two teams [South Africa and Argentina] here already.”
Assistant coach Mzwandile Stick added that the success of the recent Lions tour showed South Africa’s worth as hosts.
“If you look at the facilities that we got in our country, they are very good stadiums to host any kind of an event,” Stick said.
“We hosted big events before and there was the success of the British and Irish Lions tour when all the [Test] games were played in Cape Town.
“It’s a pity that our supporters can’t really enjoy the games in the stadiums, but we are living in challenging times.
“I think we’ve got what it takes if it comes to South Africa.”