NZ government relaxes rules to allow Bledisloe tests

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The New Zealand government has agreed to relax quarantine requirements to allow two Bledisloe Cup rugby tests against Australia to go ahead in New Zealand next month.

The decision follows the move by southern hemisphere rugby body SANZAAR to move the four-nation Rugby Championship from New Zealand to Australia because of Australia’s more lenient rules around mandatory isolation.

New Zealand’s regulations would have forced visiting teams from Argentina, Australia and South Africa to train in smaller groups until late in the quarantine period while Australia permits full squads to train together throughout isolation.

The New Zealand rules also threatened to jeopardize the two-test Bledisloe Cup series because Australia likely would refuse to play a test on Oct. 10 if it’s preparation had been affected by the quarantine restrictions.

New Zealand Rugby has yet to confirm dates for the series but the tests are likely to go ahead on Oct. 10 in Wellington and on Oct. 17 — New Zealand’s election day — in Auckland.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday an agreement was reached with New Zealand Rugby to allow the Wallabies to train in small groups from the third day and as a full group from the sixth day of their two-week quarantine period. Ardern said she also spoke to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday to work towards a solution.

“We just want to make sure that ... we go there and they go here and it is a fair arrangement,” Ardern told radio Newstalk ZB.

Ardern previously said stricter quarantine protocols would have to be in place around the Rugby Championship because South Africa and Argentina are high risk countries. At least 10 members of the Argentina team and coach Mario Ledesma have tested postive for COVID-19.

Ardern said New Zealand Director-General of Health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield believes Australia’s “risk profile” is lower and it is “possible and advisable” for the Wallabies to come to New Zealand without the same level of restrictions.

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