The Sport and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson says while it is disappointing the Rugby Championship will not be held in New Zealand, the country will host two Bledisloe Cup games in October and has the capacity in managed isolation facilities to host other international sporting events.
“We offered flexible quarantine arrangements that would have seen players able to train after spending three days in isolation and returning a negative test,” Grant Robertson said.
“Given the six recent cases in the Pumas, and with community outbreaks in Australia and South Africa it would be risky to go further than that and allow players to walk off a plane and go straight into training in a full team environment.
“Our flexible isolation proposal had the added bonus of protecting the tournament. If one player goes down with Covid they run the risk of infecting their whole team and putting the Rugby Championship in jeopardy where as we would have isolated cases at day three.
“We have been working hard on preparations to host the Rugby Championship since we were told in July by SANZAAR that they wanted New Zealand to host the tournament, and feel like we put forward a very attractive set of arrangements.
“We still believe this was a very competitive proposal, especially given that we have the best prospect of being able to have full stadiums for the games.
“We have always worked to strike a balance between keeping New Zealanders and visitors safe from COVID-19 and allowing the games to be played here. Since July Health, MIQ, Immigration and Sport officials have all been working with New Zealand Rugby on getting a plan in place,” Grant Robertson said.
“We supported New Zealand Rugby with their bid including offering government financial support, bespoke isolation facilities and a Ministry of Health approved isolation training plan.
“The proposed plan that we agreed with New Zealand Rugby had significant flexibility to enable the teams to train. This could happen in groups of 15 as early as three days after arrival if they test negative for COVID-19, and then for up to 25 players to train together after six days, dependent on another negative test.
“While we will not be hosting the Rugby Championship, we look forward to hosting Bledisloe Cup games scheduled for October, and are now in a position to host other international sporting events including cricket and netball,” Grant Robertson said.