Home for Christmas: NZ Rugby delighted with Test fixture tweaks | Sport

New Zealand Rugby has refused to confirm whether getting the All Blacks home for Christmas has come with a price tag for the local game.

On Thursday, SANZAAR announced a tweak to the Rugby Championship draw so the Kiwis finish up in time to serve a two-week quarantine in New Zealand and enjoy Christmas lunch with their families.

Mark Robinson, chief executive of NZ Rugby, said he was delighted to get the change over the line. “It’s a really tense time. There’s a lot of uncertainty and anxiety,” he said. “It’s been really constructive. All parties have come to the table looking for a resolution.”

Robinson denied a player boycott had been tabled by the three-time world champions.

Instead of starting the four-team tournament on 7 November and finishing on 12 December, the All Blacks will now begin a week earlier with a standalone clash with Australia at ANZ Stadium on 31 October, finishing their duties with a 5 December match with Argentina. The fixture change is possible after the NSW government removed the need for people travelling from New Zealand to quarantine.

Reports on either side of the Tasman suggest NZ Rugby made commercial concessions for the switch, but Robinson wouldn’t be drawn on the terms.

“Ultimately we’ve gotten there haven’t we?” Robinson said. “We’re really happy with the arrangement. It’s obviously commercially sensitive but we’re comfortable with it. It’s a good compromise all round.”

Robinson said there was still no confirmation South Africa, which has recorded more than 10,000 Covid-19 cases in the last week, would take part. “We’re finding out more in the next few days. The last reports we have remain pretty positive,” he said.

The changes come at a difficult time for world rugby, which is rearranging schedules and competitions amid a financial hit from Covid-19.

The prospect of ever returning to a five-nation Super Rugby competition appears impossible and Robinson said he was yet to begin discussions with Rugby Australia about trans-Tasman club games in 2021. “We’ve had a few other things going on … once we get through this little period we’ll talk a bit about our competition for next year,” he said.

The Wallabies face New Zealand at Wellington’s Sky Stadium on Sunday in the first of four Bledisloe Cup matches that begin the international calendar.

Join us from 1.30pm (AEDT) on Sunday for our liveblog of the Bledisloe Cup Test match at Wellington’s Sky Stadium.

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