The All Blacks have committed to leave New Zealand five days after the second Bledisloe Cup test this month, with Ian Foster floating the prospect of playing the opening Rugby Championship test one week early to avoid the team having to quarantine through Christmas on their return home.
Foster, the All Blacks head coach, told the Herald with the New South Wales Government on Friday scrapping quarantine requirements for Kiwis from October 16, the team would be happy to play the opening Rugby Championship test one week after arriving in Australia.
"We're really conscious there's been lots of variables at play with the draw and now we've established the certainty our second Bled will be on Sunday the 18th, we will then be flying out the following Friday on the 23rd and preparing to play the first game of the Rugby Championship in Australia on November 7," Foster said as the All Blacks finished a week-long camp in Hamilton ahead of the opening Bledisloe Cup test in Wellington next weekend.
"But with the quarantine news there's no reason we couldn't play a week before that."
Foster said no players have indicated they will not join the team in Australia, though some may opt to arrive late depending on the arrival of imminent babies. Those players with babies due in the coming weeks include Ardie Savea, Sevu Reece and Nepo Laulala.
The change in quarantine measures will also involve the All Blacks rethinking plans to take a squad of 46 players to Australia. Foster may now opt to leave the extra 11 players he planned to add to his 35-man Bledisloe Cup squad as injury cover in the Mitre 10 Cup, and only fly them over if necessary.
"We expect all players to be available. The only ones we've got to keep working through, which is outside our control, is a couple with babies due around that time. We'll make that plan accordingly.
"That's normal life scenarios we have to deal with all the time it's only been exacerbated by quarantine. There's not one player that doesn't want to come."
New Zealand Rugby remains locked in tense negotiations with Rugby Australia and the Sanzaar partners over what it believes to be a broken agreement to finish the Rugby Championship on the weekend of December 5.
Sanzaar released the Rugby Championship draw from November 7 to December 12 without signoff from NZ Rugby, and an ugly row of claims and counter-claims has erupted with Rugby Australia since.
Earlier this week, Foster admitted he was bitterly disappointed with the way the Rugby Championship draw had unfolded, while captain Sam Cane said the team were blindsided by the December 12 date.
Foster is now attempting to move on and focus on the first two tests of his tenure as head coach.
"We're excited by getting over there and we'll leave the other end of the tournament up to the administrators to sort out – that's their decision. We know there is a significant dispute and that's up to New Zealand Rugby to sort out."
NZ Rugby will continue to push for the final All Blacks and Wallabies test to be moved forward from December 12 in order for the team to avoid spending Christmas in quarantine.
A resolution is, though, by no means guaranteed.
Foster does not expect the transtasman board room stoush to spill onto the field when the All Blacks and Wallabies play the first test of the year on Sunday, October 11.
"What's happening with the draw is for the people in charge of that area. I understand the public often blur the lines between what's happening with the administrators and teams.
"I read something from [Wallabies assistant coach] Scott Wisemantel recently saying 'we're just coaches, we'll just play the games we need to play'.
"Between the teams there's nothing but healthy respect and regard for each other but they're Wallabies and we're All Blacks and when the whistle goes that seems to change and it seems to fire both of us up to want to go and get stuck into a big occasion.
"What's happening off the park has been a bit of a sideshow but it gets put to one side when the real event starts which is the whistle time next Sunday."