Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed that the New Zealand Government will change quarantine rules to allow the Wallabies to prepare for the Bledisloe Cup in New Zealand.
Ardern said today she had spoken to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison last night to ensure the All Blacks' two Bledisloe Cup matches in New Zealand would still go ahead in October.
"I just wanted to make sure that he was aware ... I was made aware last night that there were a few little rumblings around the arrangements that we had in place," Ardern told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking.
"Always better to get ahead of these things before they escalate. Given we had a bit of a deal - we go there, they come here, we both benefit. I thought he might want to know there were a few discussions as to whether the Aussies were still going to come."
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie previously criticised the tight turnaround expected by New Zealand Rugby of his side following planned quarantine measures for next month's Bledisloe Cup tests.
New Zealand has been confirmed to host two Bledisloe Cup tests after missing out on the hosting rights for the Rugby Championship due to restrictive quarantine protocols.
According to NZ Rugby chairman Brent Impey, New Zealand's quarantine protocols initially restricted teams to individual isolation for the first three days, before being allowed to form bubbles of 15 for training from days four to seven. After a second negative test, they would be able to expand the bubble to 25 from days eight to 14. "If there was a positive test, then it's all over," Impey said.
Speaking about the issue this morning, Ardern confirmed the Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield had advised that the Wallabies would now be able to start training after three days and as a full squad after six days.
She believed they were still coming: "There's no reason for them not to."
She said the risk profile for the Australians was different for teams in the wider Rugby Championship - South Africa and Argentina. In the latter's case, some players and coach Mario Ledesma had tested positive for Covid-19.
"Quarantine shouldn't be an issue," Ardern added. "We just want to make sure that we go there and they go here and it's a fair arrangement."
Ardern's comments come after Rennie went as far as ruling his team out of being able to play the first Bledisloe Cup test on October 10, which was initially mooted as a potential date.
Minister of Sport Grant Robertson said the Wallabies are set to be based in Christchurch for their pre-Bledisloe Cup quarantine.
"Most likely location will be in Christchurch," Robertson told TVNZ. "It will be in a dedicated isolation facility, and they will be able to bus to and from their training grounds."
No official dates have been confirmed for the Bledisloe Cup tests yet.
Ian Foster: No excuses for Australia not to play Bledisloe Cup tests
All Blacks coach Ian Foster said he was "thrilled" with the change in quarantine rules to allow the Bledisloe tests to go ahead.
"Very thrilled with that even though we're bitterly disappointed we're losing the Rugby Championship but we're finished sulking about that," Foster told Newstalk ZB. "We're looking forward to it and now can't wait to sort out these Bleds. A little bit of water to go under the bridge but today's news is positive."
Foster also responded to Rennie's threat to skip the first test altogether, saying there's now no excuses for Australia not to play both tests.
"He's come out strong based on information about the quarantine. We listened to that. But at the same time we were busy talking hard with the government about relaxing it.
"Now I think we've achieved that, when you look an equitable situation which is about giving two teams a fair chance at preparing. To basically have 13 free days to prepare for a test match, in an international sports world is huge.
"Really, I don't think there's any excuse for them not to come over and play in that weekend."
Foster admitted losing the Rugby Championship hosting rights to Australia was disappointing but refused to say New Zealand "blew it".
"I wouldn't say we blew it. It looks like it because we had it and then it went. While it's frustrating, we're fully aware there are a whole lot of variables in play and quite frankly life hasn't been fair this year for too many people and we've just got to take that one on the chin.
"What we do need to do is make sure we do these two Bledisloes and in a fair way. I think what's happened now with the quarantine has basically put us in a situation where we can offer the Aussies nine full days in quarantine preparing, four full days once they are out which is about 13 days by my maths.
"When you look at our preparation for the first Bled, we've got a three-day camp, a four-day camp and a six-day lead-in – so we've got 13 days. Really can't see any reason we can't be playing on that weekend."