GOLD COAST, Australia (AP) — Argentina's troubled Rugby Championship worsened on Thursday when six players and two staff were suspended from their last match against Australia after breaking coronavirus protocols.
The eight Argentines crossed the state border into New South Wales while taking a day trip to a Byron Bay health retreat on Wednesday. When they tried to return to their Queensland base, they were stopped by police at the border, unaware of renewed restrictions on border movement that banned tourists.
Players Sebastian Cancelliere, Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, Felipe Ezcurra, Pablo Matera, Santiago Medrano and Santiago Socino, along with manager Lucas Chioccarelli and video analyst Rodrigo Martínez had to remain in New South Wales.
Rugby Championship overseer SANZAAR blamed the Argentines for the breach, said they were not available for the Wallabies test on Saturday on the Gold Coast, and couldn't rejoin their squad until Sunday when they fly home to Argentina.
SANZAAR added that the Pumas had enough players in their 44-man squad to ensure the test went ahead.
Matera, Medrano and Socino played in the 27-8 loss to the Wallabies last weekend and missed out on selection on Thursday.
SANZAAR said it was very disappointed in the Argentines.
“This travel across the state border is a direct breach of the present Queensland government health orders and SANZAAR’s Rugby Championship tournament biosecurity plan,” a SANZAAR statement read.
“These team members . . . crossed the border on their scheduled day off without the permission of the tournament and without seeking clarity on their ability to re-enter Queensland under the existing COVID border restrictions.
"SANZAAR is very disappointed that such a breach has occurred given the clear rules that are in place to ensure the health and safety of all players and staff, and compliance with all relevant health orders.”
The Argentine Rugby Union said the eight players and staff were “all in perfect good health, lodged at a hotel in the area, waiting for their current condition to be solved.
“At the same time, an internal process has been put into place in order to clarify and to determine responsibility for what has happened.”
The Pumas have lost all five of their Rugby Championship matches, including two each to New Zealand and South Africa. They are the only team to have not played at home.
They said they were disrespected last week when a promotional photo and video shoot featuring the team captains went ahead without them. SANZAAR and Rugby Australia apologized for the snub.
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