Rugby-New Zealand PM says All Blacks won't have quarantine leave pass

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has poured cold water on the All Blacks’ hopes of avoiding Christmas in quarantine after the Rugby Championship, saying the team would be “uncomfortable” with being given special treatment.

FILE PHOTO: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern participates in a televised debate with National leader Judith Collins at TVNZ in Auckland, New Zealand, September 22, 2020. Fiona Goodall/Pool via REUTERS

The All Blacks will need to quarantine for 14 days when they return to New Zealand as part of COVID-19 protocols following their final match of the Rugby Championship on Dec. 12 against Australia in Sydney.

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) have complained that tournament organisers backflipped on an agreement that the All Blacks would finish a week earlier.

NZR said they were working on solutions to the All Blacks’ dilemma but Ardern offered no government help on Monday.

“There are others who won’t want to be stuck in quarantine over Christmas, but that’s just the reality of our process,” Ardern told New Zealand radio station Newstalk ZB.

“I don’t think (the All Blacks) would feel that comfortable with us creating a different regime for them, because it exists for the same reason.”

Ardern held out some hope that travel restrictions between Australia and New Zealand might be lifted before the end of the year in an interview with state broadcaster TVNZ.

Plans for a travel ‘bubble’ between Australia and New Zealand have been discussed for months, but they were disrupted after a resurgence of COVID-19 in Melbourne, Australia, followed by an outbreak in Auckland.

Australia’s New Zealander coach Dave Rennie expressed sympathy for the All Blacks on Sunday.

“I know there is talk of a bubble opening up between New South Wales and New Zealand,” he said.

“If that comes in before Christmas happens then it will be a non-issue and they will be able to go straight home to their families and that’s what we want.”

Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing Michael Perry