New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has announced that due to the implementation of a national lockdown in response to a rise in COVID-19 cases, the forthcoming men’s and women’s test series will be cancelled.
The All Blacks men’s team were due to play two tests against South Africa in the Rugby Championship – one away game on 25 September in Dunedin and a home game in Auckland on 2 October – whilst the Black Ferns women’s side were set to play Australia in two home games on 26 September and 2 October in the O’Reily Cup.
Additionally, the All Blacks game in the third Bledisloe Cup game of 2021 on 28 August in Perth has also been cancelled due to travel limitations imposed by the New Zealand government following infections of 31 people with COVID-19, from an initial case of just one individual.
However, a set of games scheduled towards the end of the year, which would see the Black Ferns play two tests each against England and France and the All Blacks play the US, France and Ireland, have not yet been cancelled or rearranged.
Mark Robinson, Chief Executive, New Zealand Rugby, remarked: “We share the disappointment of our fans, players and other stakeholders, particularly those in Dunedin where the sold-out 100th Test between the All Blacks and South Africa was shaping up as a very special occasion.
“However, after discussions with government, it is clear that the COVID-19 travel restrictions meant there was no way of bringing the South African and Wallaroos squads into New Zealand and we understand the importance of putting the health and safety of New Zealanders first.”
The announcement closely follows the postponement of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup after both New Zealand and Australia withdrew from the tournament, citing that the global health situation meant it is ‘simply too unsafe’ to allow its teams and staff to travel to the UK, the host country for the competition.