New Zealand Rugby boss Mark Robinson is demanding fairness after Sanzaar released the Rugby Championship schedule that, as it stands, will involve the All Blacks quarantining through Christmas on their return from Australia - a prospect that may force some players to reconsider their commitment to the full tournament.
NZR has not agreed to the Rugby Championship being staged from November 7 to December 12 and, therefore, plans to continue lobbying Rugby Australia to move the final match between the All Blacks and Wallabies to an earlier date to avoid the All Blacks squad of 60 players and management being separated from their families at Christmas.
"We were working on the understanding that all joint venture parties agree to these sorts of decisions and in that regard we were disappointed we couldn't reach an agreement before a release was made," Robinson said after the schedule was released this morning.
"Although we're disappointed with the announcement, we're very committed to finding some solutions to getting through the challenge of playing on the 12th – we haven't agreed to that.
"Critical to all this is the wellbeing of our people. Right from the very outset and deliberation around the Rugby Championship there's been a clear focus from New Zealand and Australia about the need to have our people back home and not in quarantine at Christmas Day and beyond. We're committed to making sure that happens.
"What we're looking for in all this is some fairness and reasonable acceptance of our situation. We understand there are commercial considerations, however the wellbeing piece is absolutely fundamental to us in what is a challenging time everywhere at the moment with Covid."
The standoff ultimately pits NZR and Rugby Australia against each other once again in the latest feud of their ongoing saga this year.
Robinson acknowledged South Africa and Argentina require a six-week tournament but said their match on December 12 could proceed as planned. Unlike the All Blacks, the Springboks and Pumas can quarantine at their homes rather than in hotels away from families.
"South Africa and Argentina have had an incredibly tough year; they've got players coming from all over the world, they've got players who haven't had a lot of rugby so they need to play across that window. They're not majorly impacted by what we're talking about. We're trying to find a situation where we can schedule this last All Blacks-Wallabies game on or before December 5 or 6.
"We're talking about one game out of 12 so we think we can find a way forward."
At a time when they have no broadcast agreement and this week lost major sponsor Qantas to further open a gaping financial hole, Rugby Australia have cited commercial issues with moving the final round match between the Wallabies and All Blacks.
Decision making appears to be money-driven, with compassionate grounds largely absent. Fears around whether the Wallabies' depth can withstand three test matches in nine days may also be prevalent in the refusal to budge on the schedule.
Robinson rebuffed suggestions from Australia that New Zealand planned to hold a six-week Rugby Championship before the tournament moved across the ditch, saying NZR is merely asking for reciprocal arrangements.
"We committed to Australia being gone from New Zealand on the same weekend of the 5th or 6th. There was some discussion initially around the tournament finishing on the 12th - they raised a very fair point and we moved quite quickly to ensure Australia's involvement would be finished by the 5th or 6th. That is certainly our position we put through to Sanzaar when the two bids by both countries were considered."
If the issue of the final All Blacks and Wallabies match cannot be resolved it could force New Zealand to send some players home early from Australia.
"We haven't had any of those conversations yet. This is something that's happened in the last few days. I'd expect [All Blacks] management and senior players initially to come together for a conversation and work through that themselves."
This latest issue between NZR and Rugby Australia threatens to drive a further wedge between the two countries, which could have major spinoffs for the future of a touted transtasman Super Rugby competition from 2022.
Another public spat also paints the Sanzaar alliance in a fractured light.
"It's a sign of some extraordinary times with extraordinary pressure and unique circumstances that we're all working through," Robinson said.
"At a broad level there's huge commitment to Sanzaar. We've acknowledged over the last little while that it could potentially look a bit different in the future but there's still a huge appetite for the countries to remain in competitions with each other and we are committed to that.
"These things happen in partnerships. You work through them, that's the approach we're taking."