Mark Robinson, CEO of New Zealand Rugby.
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The All Blacks’ claim to have been “blindsided” by a Rugby Championship schedule that would leave its players quarantined at Christmas was in dispute on Thursday as reports claimed New Zealand voted in favour of the programme.
Both the Sydney Morning Herald and New Zealand’s Newshub media outlet said they had obtained leaked minutes of a 17 September Sanzzar meeting showing New Zealand had signed off on a six-week tournament ending on 12 December.
That schedule would mean the All Blacks would still be in the two-week quarantine mandated for returning travellers in New Zealand over Christmas.
New Zealand Rugby chief Mark Robinson, along with delegates from the other Sanzaar countries Australia, South Africa and Argentina, were listed as being at the meeting.
A Rugby Australia source also told AFP that New Zealand voted in favour of the original Rugby Championship agreement for a six-week tournament.
The Sydney Morning Herald said the minutes “revealed New Zealand Rugby agreed to play a six-week Rugby Championship which would finish on 12 December, despite their insistence otherwise.”
Sanzaar chief executive Andy Marinos told Newshub the tournament “was always agreed to run from 7 November to 12 December and they (New Zealand) were aware of that.”
But when the schedule was made public, New Zealand publicly fumed, claiming it went against their push for a 5 December finish so players could complete Covid-enforced quarantine requirements and be home for Christmas.
“We didn’t agree to the schedule and don’t agree to the schedule. Or the announcement,” Robinson repeated at a press conference on Wednesday, hours before the details from the leaked minutes emerged.
“In any forum that we’ve been in there’s been no agreement to play in the tournament on 12 December, at any time and any meeting. We’ve been very clear around that.”
There was no immediate reaction from the NZR to the leaked documents and the issue was further clouded by New Zealand Rugby Players Association boss Rob Nichol who said he received conflicting information on the issue.
“What we’ve learnt is exactly the same time that Sanzaar management put out a press release effectively changing the draw to show our last game on 12 December, the broadcasters themselves had circulated a draw that showed the last game on 5 December,” Nichol told reporters.