All Blacks coach Ian Foster is "bitterly disappointed" with the proposed Rugby Championship schedule that may force his team to quarantine through Christmas but remains hopeful a resolution can be reached with New Zealand's Sanzaar partners in the coming days.
Foster fronted on Tuesday, as the All Blacks gathered in Hamilton for a three-day camp, for the first time since Sanzaar released the Rugby Championship draw without New Zealand Rugby's agreement.
On Monday night Foster addressed his team to talk through the various options on the table and when he spoke publicly one day later, his frustrations with the process were clear.
"There's still a lot happening in that space. There was a deal based on [December] 5th we feel Sanzaar has reneged on that so we've put some solutions forward and we're waiting on that. We have to fix it," Foster said.
"There's been set expectations and they haven't been delivered on so that's up to the game and Sanzaar to sort out in the next few days.
"We've got to sort out this little hiccup and get on with it. Today would be great, but we'll accept tomorrow."
Asked if the All Blacks were prepared to boycott the final Rugby Championship test against the Wallabies on December 12 to avoid having to quarantine through Christmas, Foster said: "I don't want to talk about that now. That's a headline I don't want to put out there but we're bitterly disappointed that what was proposed got changed.
"We're not basing on any schedule now because the schedule that's been proposed is not one we agreed or accepted.
"This is not about a Christmas issue. It's about players that have been playing and preparing to play through Covid and a whole lot of situations for a long, long time. At some point we've got to draw a line in the sand and say 'that's enough'."
Foster would not go into specifics on alternative solutions but it essentially involves the prospect of moving the final All Blacks and Wallabies test forward, while allowing the Springboks and Pumas to play on December 12.
"I don't think that's going to be helpful. At the end of the day there was a good solution at the start – six tests in five weeks was achievable. South Africa and Argentina could play six in six weeks; it fitted a time zone. We've come up with a couple of ideas around that."
The issue of quarantining through Christmas may affect the decisions of some players, particularly those with families, about whether they commit to the full nine-to-10 week Australian tour or not.
"There's a whole lot of things that could happen but let's not dwell on that. We think there's a good attitude to fix this up and it needs fixing."
The Rugby Championship schedule continues an ever-evolving, uncertain rugby year but All Blacks hooker Dane Coles is attempting to set aside the latest issue to concentrate on the dual Bledisloe Cup tests, which start in Wellington on October 11.
"There's so many scenarios going around," Coles said. "We've talked about plan A, B, C through to F. There's a process between New Zealand Rugby and Sanzaar to sort out and we've got no control over that so we'll let the top dogs have a few meetings and get it under control.
"Hopefully things work out. It's not ideal, we don't want to spend Christmas in quarantine.
"I'm not going to talk to my wife until I know what the plan is. Everyone will be in their different situations. There's no point going to all the new dads and partners and saying 'there's six situations' I can just imagine what would happen.
"Once we get a solid plan then we can have those tough conversations with our loved ones. I've spent a huge amount of time away from my family with rugby. My wife knows that, and we've got great support, so when it happens we'll have a yarn and see what the best thing is for us and the All Blacks."
As Bledisloe preparations ramp up, Hurricanes midfielder Ngani Laumape, Crusaders captain Scott Barrett and Otago hooker Liam Coltman have joined the All Blacks camp in Hamilton.
Laumape (broken forearm) and Barrett (toe) will have their respective injuries assessed but both are expected to be among the 11 players added to the original 35-man squad, along with Wellington midfielder Peter Umaga-Jensen who is in line to replace the injured Braydon Ennor, for the Rugby Championship.
Coltman has been called in to cover Asafo Aumua who is recovering from a head knock sustained while playing for Wellington. Beauden Barrett is also back the squad following the birth of his first daughter, Billie Rose.
"It's been an exciting time for Beauden and Hannah and we congratulate them and little Billie Rose but he's back into work today and excited about that too," Foster said.
"Ngani is still a way off. His is an easier assessment because it's a bone whereas Scott is progressing well but we need to factor in what is his timeline to get into full contact."