All Blacks camp shut down all 'laughable' Tests rumours
REACTION: All Blacks star Richie Mo’unga has opened up on rumours him and several teammates were considering pulling out of this year’s Rugby Championship for family reasons, slamming the reports as “laughable”.
Reports emerged that a group of key All Blacks players told New Zealand Rugby that they don’t want to leave their families for up to 10 weeks to play in the competition, which could include spending Christmas in quarantine.
Among the players named were flyhalves Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett, scrumhalf TJ Perenara and wing Sevu Reece.
Both Mo’unga and Perenara recently had newborn babies, while Barrett and Reece are also expecting their first children.
The reports came after Sanzaar announced that Australia will host the Rugby Championship in November and December, with the All Blacks due to play the Wallabies in two Bledisloe Cup tests in New Zealand in October.
While dates for the Rugby Championship haven’t been confirmed, reports suggest All Blacks players could be forced to spend Christmas in quarantine due to New Zealand’s 14-day quarantine rules.
Speaking to the New Zealand Herald on Monday, Mo’unga said he was shocked by the reports.
“It was quite laughable really, it was the first I had heard of it,” Mo’unga said.
“It’s a tricky one because as players we are made accountable for the things we say and do and it’s quite tricky when speculations come out like that and it can be harmful and sad for family members during these uncertain times.
“I’m sure players with newborn babies, soon-to-be-fathers will have conversations and make those decisions in their own time with [All Blacks coach] Ian Foster and the management.”
Admitting it would be difficult to leave his young family behind, Mo’unga didn’t express a preference for staying home.
“It definitely will be tough, you’d have to be a robot if that wasn’t going to be tough for you and you’re away from that certain amount of time but us footy players, we play rugby and we’ve got to do everything we can to put food on the table for our families as well.”
Head coach Foster also denied the claims – although he did admit discussions were being held with players about the issue.
“I read that report yesterday and it was pretty frustrating that those headlines came out without any facts behind it,” Foster told Newstalk ZB. “Are we in trouble? No, we’re not in trouble. Are we having conversations with players? Of course we are.
“We’re trying to be responsible employers and talk to a whole lot of players. This is all new to everyone, taking players away for nine weeks where you can’t get back and it’s becoming increasingly obvious it’s going to be hard to bring players over later.
“So it’s a big chunk of time and we’re just working in through with players.”
Foster said he had spoken to the players named in the reports and insisted it wasn’t true.
“I’ve had no player at all, and I’ve spoken to the players who were noted in the articles. I’ve spoken to all those players and I haven’t heard anything like what has been reported. Right now, people just want to know what the facts are and we’re gathering them up at the moment.”
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Foster also responded to Rennie’s threat to skip the first test altogether, saying there are now no excuses for Australia not to play both tests following New Zealand government’s relaxed quarantine rules.
“He’s come out strong based on information about the quarantine. We listened to that. But at the same time we were busy talking hard with the Government about relaxing it.
“Now I think we’ve achieved that, when you look an equitable situation which is about giving two teams a fair chance at preparing. To basically have 13 free days to prepare for a test match, in an international sports world is huge.
“Really, I don’t think there’s any excuse for them not to come over and play in that weekend.”
The two Bledisloe Cup Tests are scheduled to take place on Sunday, October 11 in Wellington and a week later on October 18 in Auckland.
Source: NZHerald & Rugbypass