All Blacks test back on and Rugby Championship host confirmed

Publish Date
Tuesday, 24 August 2021, 8:26AM
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The All Blacks will play the third Bledisloe Cup test in Perth next Saturday, before basing themselves in Queensland for the remainder of the Rugby Championship.

The Herald can reveal the competition, which was originally scheduled to be played in New Zealand and Australia before outbreaks of the Delta variant of Covid-19 both sides of the Tasman forced a last-minute rethink, will proceed as planned down under - despite interest in hosting it in Europe and South Africa.

New Zealand Rugby came in for fierce criticism for deciding against leaving for Perth at the weekend, after failing to secure assurance from Rugby Australia that the Rugby Championship would go ahead.

With New Zealand's borders shut amidst a nationwide lockdown due to the most recent community outbreak, the All Blacks face up to 15 weeks away from home.

The Herald understands it was confirmed at a Sanzaar board meeting on Monday night that the final test in the Bledisloe Cup, already secured for a 19th straight year following the All Blacks' back-to-back wins at Eden Park, will be played at Opta Stadium in Perth on September 4. The test doubles as the All Blacks' second clash in the Rugby Championship.

The All Blacks will then depart for Queensland for the rest of the Rugby Championship after the state government agreed to have the travelling South African and Argentinian teams quarantine there.

Late last week, NZ Rugby cited the continued uncertainty surrounding whether Europe, Queensland or South Africa would host the four-nation tournament as the rationale for not sending the All Blacks over the weekend.

Much of the context around NZ Rugby's decision to hold the All Blacks back at late notice, and force Rugby Australia to reschedule the third Bledisloe for a second time, was overshadowed by furious criticism – and some dubious claims, particularly those from RA chief executive Andy Marinos about a lack of consultation.

As first reported by the Herald, Sanzaar held a chief executive meeting last Thursday where NZ Rugby boss Mark Robinson flagged issues facing the All Blacks' departure, including the challenges assembling a group of 60-odd players and management from all parts of the country with domestic flights significantly reduced while New Zealand is in lockdown.

With no MIQ spots available for the All Blacks until November, once the team leaves New Zealand they cannot return until then. They, therefore, wanted certainty around the Rugby Championship destination before being away from home for up to 14 weeks.

This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission