Wallabies coach Dave Rennie says he’s “bloody angry” at New Zealand Rugby’s decision not to send the All Blacks to Perth as relations between the trans-Tasman rivals continue to unravel.
The Rugby Championship fixture was thrown into chaos by NZR’s announcement on Friday, which Rugby Australia called a “unilateral decision”.
The All Blacks were initially scheduled to fly to Perth on Sunday in preparation for the third Test at Optus Stadium on 28 August, which also doubled as a Rugby Championship fixture.
But with New Zealand in lockdown due to rising Covid cases and the uncertainty around the schedule, NZR pulled the pin. The Black Ferns’ two Tests against the Wallaroos in New Zealand have also been canned as well the All Blacks’ two home Tests against South Africa.
Furious RA boss Andy Marinos said they were informed by the media of the decision despite ongoing discussions with his New Zealand opposite Mark Robinson.
“It’s incredibly disappointing to be informed of this decision via the media, despite having a conversation with the CEO moments before and there [was] no mention that this was the intention,” Marinos said in a statement.
He felt that discussions between all parties, including the Western Australia government, had been positive and they were “close to finding a solution” with a meeting scheduled with Sanzaar later for Friday.
Rennie, who is a New Zealander, was filthy at the manner in which NZR had gone about the whole process.
“Bloody angry,” Rennie said in the opening salvo of his press conference on Friday. “It’s disappointing how it’s been communicated. Our boys all found out through social medial.
“NZ Rugby didn’t even have the respect to consult RA about their decision, so that’s hugely disappointing. I’m not sure shocked is the right word, because I’m not surprised.”
Rennie was particularly upset given the way the Wallabies have bent over backwards over the past 15 months to accommodate the All Blacks. That included changing fixtures last year to ensure All Blacks players would not have to quarantine during Christmas.
“I just feel there’s only one of us who are interested in doing what’s best for the game,” Rennie said. “We’ve all made sacrifices to ensure that the games are played for the financial benefit of everyone and the good of the game.
“If they’re playing the welfare card, well our NSW guys haven’t been home for eight weeks already with no clear end in sight either, with the likelihood that guys won’t get home until late November.
“NZ’s attitude to not honouring their commitment is really disappointing. It’s all about them and without any concept of what it’s doing over here.”
It is believed that the WA government was set to allow the All Blacks into the state, provided they arrived seven days before the match and completed “soft” quarantine, as interstate AFL teams currently do.
But NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said that they were not prepared to send the team to Perth with so much uncertainty around travel and scheduling, with Queensland and even Europe mooted as possible host locations for the Rugby Championship.
Robinson defended the last-minute decision not to send the All Blacks to Perth.
“We certainly don’t accept this has been a unilateral decision,” Robinson said in response to RA’s statement. “We have been communicating right through the week with Sanzaar and Rugby Australia and made very clear to them the risks and concerns we had.
“So while we understand the emotion coming out of by the sounds of it … we are really comfortable with communication, the rationale that we’ve put in behind the decision and very comfortable with the fact that we’re standing behind their people.”