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