Ni­chol walks diplo­matic tightrope

Play­ers’ union boss in­sists NZ Rugby was blind­sided by Sanzaar and Rugby Aus­tralia as the re­la­tion­ship be­tween all par­ties de­te­ri­o­rates.

The Timaru Herald - - Sport - Richard Knowler

If Rob Ni­chol can end this bit­ter feud be­tween NZ Rugby and Rugby Aus­tralia, it may be one of his most mem­o­rable vic­to­ries yet.

The chances of NZ Rugby Play­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion boss Ni­chol thaw­ing the big freeze be­tween NZ Rugby and Rugby Aus­tralia may be re­mote, but if any­one is ca­pa­ble of re­main­ing op­ti­mistic – es­pe­cially in a public fo­rum – when all seems lost, it’s him.

NZ Rugby was left red-faced and an­gry when Sanzaar de­clared it wouldn’t com­press the Rugby Cham­pi­onship in Aus­tralia into a five-week sched­ule, pre­vent­ing the All Blacks from be­ing home for Christ­mas day be­cause they will

still be in quar­an­tine af­ter play­ing the fi­nal game against the Wal­la­bies in Bris­bane on De­cem­ber 12.

This, in turn, could re­sult in some All Blacks want­ing to skip part, or all, of the tour­na­ment.

NZ Rugby chief ex­ec­u­tive Mark Robin­son has blamed Rugby Aus­tralia for not re­cip­ro­cat­ing on an ear­lier agree­ment, which in­volved hav­ing the Wal­la­bies back home with their fam­i­lies for Christ­mas Day, when it hoped to host the Rugby Cham­pi­onship in New Zealand.

Yet Rugby Aus­tralia and Sanzaar chief ex­ec­u­tive Andy Mari­nos have in­sisted NZ Rugby hasn’t been blind­sided by the Rugby

Cham­pi­onship sched­ule.

Ni­chol said the first he knew of Sanzaar’s U-turn was a cou­ple of days ago, which con­tra­dicts those

mes­sages from Rugby Aus­tralia and Sanzaar.

‘‘It cer­tainly

Ni­chol said. sur­prised us,’’

‘‘We [NZRPA] were like ‘wow, this hasn’t been agreed to’. Let me make that very clear – this hasn’t been agreed to.’’

Re­la­tions be­tween NZ Rugby and Rugby Aus­tralia have de­te­ri­o­rated sig­nif­i­cantly since NZ Rugby tried to strong-arm the Aus­tralians into dump­ing sev­eral teams for a re­vamped trans-Tas­man com­pe­ti­tion in 2021.

Sanzaar’s de­ci­sion to award the Rugby Cham­pi­onship host­ing rights to Aus­tralia af­ter ini­tially stat­ing New Zealand had the in­side run­ning has added more strain to the re­la­tion­ship.

Ni­chol has urged all par­ties to put aside their griev­ances and re­turn to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble.

‘‘So what is go­ing on, you know? We are all try­ing to make this hap­pen. It is not easy for any­one, whether you are in­side or out­side of sport. The last thing we need is these games be­ing played.

‘‘We would like to think that, ac­tu­ally, Aus­tralia is in­cred­i­bly em­pa­thetic with the sit­u­a­tion we are talk­ing about be­cause we were cer­tainly em­pa­thetic with their play­ers.

‘‘As a re­sult [we hoped] they would be pretty keen to help us in this sit­u­a­tion. That is all.

‘‘Not be­ing dif­fi­cult or any­thing, but I would have thought that was log­i­cal. If it was the other way around, we would cer­tainly be do­ing what we could to help.’’

De­tails about quar­an­tine pro­to­cols and lo­gis­tics for the tour­na­ment have also yet to be made avail­able to NZ Rugby and the NZRPA.

Ni­chol also said there was no cer­tainty the Rugby Cham­pi­onship would go ahead in its cur­rent for­mat if the Spring­boks were not cleared to par­tic­i­pate in the tour­na­ment in Aus­tralia.

‘‘Will they make the Rugby Cham­pi­onship? Gee, we hope so,’’ Ni­chol added. ‘‘But we have got our own fight go­ing on here to keep on the sports fields, and like­wise in Aus­tralia.

‘‘It has been such an un­cer­tain year and this is just an­other lit­tle twist we have to deal with as sen­si­bly and re­spon­si­bly as we can.’’


The off-field bat­tles be­tween NZ Rugby and Rugby Aus­tralia are over­shad­ow­ing the build-up to the first Bledis­loe Cup test in Welling­ton on Oc­to­ber 11.

New Zealand Rugby Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion CEO Rob Ni­chol wants the All Blacks home for Christ­mas.

Rugby Aus­tralia and Rob Clarke aren’t tak­ing any of the blame for the All Blacks’ Christ­mas plight.

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