WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The Wallabies will be allowed to sidestep New Zealand border restrictions to play the first Bledisloe Cup test against the All Blacks as scheduled in Auckland next month.
In a politically-charged decision, the New Zealand government will allow the Australian team to fly to New Zealand on a charter flight to play the All Blacks at Eden Park on Aug. 7.
A decision has yet to be made on whether other scheduled matches, including the third Bledisloe Cup test at Wellington on Aug. 28 will be able to go ahead, or whether the All Blacks will be able to return if they fly to Perth, Western Australia, for the second test on Aug. 21.
New Zealand has paused quarantine-free travel from Australia for eight weeks because of COVID outbreaks in New South Wales and Victoria states. New Zealanders stranded in states other than Victoria and New South Wales have been allowed a seven-day grace period to return to New Zealand without having to isolate on arrival.
The Australian team can now enter New Zealand without going through quarantine. The Wallabies have been in a bio-secure bubble in Queensland state since the end of their three-test series against France last week.
The use of a charter flight means the team will not occupy places on scheduled flights which might otherwise be available to New Zealanders.
The dispensation was granted to the Wallabies because of the supposed economic benefits created by the Auckland test which could generate up to 20 million New Zealand dollars ($14 million) in spending.
“Decisions on the other games are dependent on ongoing discussions between New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia,” Sport Minister Grant Robertson said. “This decision was not taken lightly by the government and given the Wallabies use of a charter flight, there is no restriction on public access to a return flight to New Zealand.
“They will have to fulfill all normal obligations for travel including negative pre-departure tests within 72 hours of their travel.”
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