Back and forth bickering between New Zealand and Australian rugby continues but with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern relaxing quarantine regulations, All Blacks coach Ian Foster now expects Dave Rennie's Wallabies to agree to play two Bledisloe Cup tests here next month.
"I expect them to hop on a plane and come and play us," Foster said bluntly on Tuesday after Ardern allowed provisions for the Wallabies to have 13 days preparation after arriving in New Zealand for two tests against the All Blacks, which could be staged Sunday to Sunday on October 11 and 18.
While far from ideal, the Wallabies will be able to train after three days in isolation and prepare as a full squad from six days onwards – a major shift from the confines which prevented the Rugby Championship being held in New Zealand.
"We're delighted there's been movement on quarantining," Foster added. "We see the change in quarantine has given us a situation where both teams have sufficient and equal time to prepare. We're not treating this as a personal issue, we're just trying to deal with all the issues of quarantine."
Rugby Australia are yet to respond to the latest developments but after many changes in plans and much public squabbling, the first Bledisloe Cup test is now scheduled for the weekend of October 11 in Auckland, with the second set down for the following weekend in Wellington.
"Whether we even move the Bledisloe to a Sunday to give them an extra day there's a whole lot of things we're trying to do to make sure it works for them but at the end of the day we've got a responsibility to honour the legacy of a Bledisloe series and play it."
With the Rugby Championship due to start on November 7 in Sydney, the All Blacks now want the first Bledisloe played on the weekend of October 11 in order to give their players the chance to spend time with families following the second test, before departing to Australia for seven weeks, which will be followed by two weeks in isolation on return home.
"If we move the Bledisloes to where the Aussies want – they want us to play on the Saturday and then embark on the Sunday with 46 players to Australia without having sufficient time to assess medically.
"We want a bit of time after the second Bledisloe and they've asked for more time after their Super Rugby final on [September] 19th so now they've got two or three days to make those clear assessments before they come over and have an equal preparation time."
New Zealand lost the Rugby Championship hosting rights last week largely due to the Government's strict quarantine protocols and the insistence that foreign teams could train in groups no larger than 25.
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After threats of boycotting the Bledisloe tests from Australia, Ardern has now opted to make allowances for the Wallabies but the Government's stance on the Rugby Championship quarantine, with South Africa and Argentina deemed high risk Covid-19 countries, has completely altered the complexion of the All Blacks' plans.
"Australia won the Rugby Championship fair and square and good on them, but the fact is one of the reasons they won it was because of their quarantine situation.
"We were obviously frustrated that we couldn't duplicate their quarantine situation but there's clearly reasons for it. We missed out to a Rugby Championship that was based on a proposal for it to be entirely in Sydney, and then the next day we read we're going to play a game in Brisbane so there's been a lot of late changes that's caused a lot of adaption.
"If the Rugby Championship was won by New Zealand we would have had two Bledisloes in Australia and we would have had the same preparation time we're now offering the Wallabies."
Foster also tackled the views of former Springboks captain Wynand Claassen, who led South Africa on their rebel tour to New Zealand and recently stated it would be madness for the world champions to compete in the Rugby Championship.
Rugby in the Republic is not due to resume until October 3, and Claassen believed it is not worth the Boks risking their reputation on such limited preparation.
"I hear talk from a former South African captain that they shouldn't come because they might lose their world ranking with their preparation. Well let's can the world rankings for this year. Who really cares? What's more important right now is we get the game on the park and let people enjoy it.
"Of course we want to win, but I'd hate for little things like that stand in the way of international rugby."