Argentina’s rugby team is in disarray, with police confirming eight members of the touring party – six players and two support staff – left Queensland to visit a health retreat in Byron Bay and have been stopped from rejoining the squad.
The Rugby Championship governing body SANZAAR hit out at the players in a statement on Thursday but said Saturday’s Test against the Wallabies would go ahead as planned.
Argentina Rugby named the players as: Pablo Matera, Santiago Medrano, Santiago Socino, Felipe Ezcurra,
Sebastían Cancelliere and Joaquín Díaz Bonilla.
The team officials are manager Lucas Chioccarelli and video analyst Rodrigo Martínez.
Loose forward Matera and prop Medrano were starters in last week’s Test in Townsville while Socino was the back up hooker.
“Following consultation with the Queensland Government, SANZAAR is aware that several members of the Argentinean rugby team were stopped at the Queensland border after a visit to Byron Bay in New South Wales on Wednesday 29 September,” the SANZAAR statement said.
“This travel across the state border is a direct breach of the present Queensland Government health orders and SANZAAR’s Rugby Championship tournament biosecurity plan.
“SANZAAR has informed Argentina Rugby that all members of this group are now ineligible to participate further in The Rugby Championship as they have breached tournament rules.
“These team members, comprising six players and two team management staff, crossed the border on their scheduled day off without the permission of the tournament and without seeking clarity on their ability to re-enter Queensland under the existing COVID border restrictions.
“The group will now stay in New South Wales and will not be available for the round six match against Australia on the Gold Coast on Saturday. They will rejoin the rest of the touring squad on Sunday to fly back to Argentina.
“SANZAAR is very disappointed that such a breach has occurred given the clear rules that are in place to ensure the health and safety of all players and staff, and compliance with all relevant health orders. SANZAAR would like to thank the Queensland Government for their continued support and leadership in facilitating the Rugby Championship in the State over the last four consecutive weeks.”
Nine TV reported police confirmed the eight members of the Argentinian team, including players, “went in a bus to Byron Bay yesterday for a health retreat.”
“When they tried to come back across the border, they didn’t have the appropriate documentation, they were turned away,” reporter Jessica Millward told TODAY.
“They’ve spent the night in a Kingscliff hotel.
“You can only go from Queensland into Northern NSW for a small number of things, they include essential work, compassionate reasons and medical reasons.
“Those reasons do not include a health retreat.”
Argentina Rugby later put out a statement confirming the identity of the players, adding they were “in perfect health, staying in a hotel in the area, waiting for their condition to be resolved.”
“At the moment, its only limitation is the momentary impossibility of transferring state jurisdiction to meet again with the rest of the members who remain in Queensland,” the statement read.
“The UAR is carrying out all the necessary steps at the institutional level and providing all the assistance to facilitate the return of the players and staff as soon as possible.
“In parallel, an internal process has begun to clarify what happened and determine the corresponding responsibilities.”
Australia and Argentina were due to name its team later Thursday for the match scheduled for Saturday afternoon on the Gold Coast.