New Zealand Rugby and the Government are in talks to ensure the All Blacks can play Test matches this year despite Covid-19 border restrictions, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today.

New Zealand is slated to host Australia, Argentina and South Africa in the four-nation Rugby Championship in November and December. But that has begun to look unlikely because of logistical difficulties in finding secure locations for the visiting teams to train while in quarantine.

News that six members of the Argentina team have tested positive for Covid-19 is also likely to complicate efforts to stage the annual tournament.

New Zealand is more hopeful that a Bledisloe Cup test series against Australia will go ahead. But that is also complicated by border restrictions and by localised outbreaks of the coronavirus in both countries.

Australia has suggested staging matches in Queensland but that currently would require the All Blacks to quarantine for two weeks in Australia and a further two weeks on their return to New Zealand. The same restrictions would apply if the Wallabies travel to New Zealand.

“There have been some discussions of whether we could play host for a tournament,” Ardern said. “It’s something we have been exploring and seeing whether we can facilitate that within the current arrangements.

“We do have tight arrangements at the border that we need to uphold. (The health ministry) need to be happy with everything.

“It’s not just down to us. We are doing enough to make it a real possibility. We have kept the door open and in good faith gone through the protocols but ultimately we are not the only ones making that decision.”

New All Blacks head coach Ian Foster on Sunday named a 35-man test squad, aware that it is still not certain that they will play a test this year. Foster said he remains optimistic.

“There’s a lot of different spreadsheets, a lot of people smarter than me coming up with options,” Foster said. “Right now our plans are really clear.

“We think within a week we’ll have more certainty. We’re extremely hopeful of some tests with Aussie and after that we’re not too sure.”


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