Rugby Championship teams including the All Blacks have reportedly been ordered into a training bubble and restricted to their hotels after a Covid-19 outbreak ahead of the tournament’s final matches at Australia’s Gold Coast.
Six new coronavirus cases have been detected in Brisbane and the Gold Coast in the past 48 hours, Queensland state health officials said, as they re-introduced mask-wearing rules and refused to rule out the possibility of a snap lockdown.
That has reportedly forced the New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and South Africa players and staff to restrict their movements in the lead-up to the culmination of the annual Rugby Championship this weekend.
All Blacks assistant coach Scott McLeod said Tuesday that the teams had been placed into a bubble, leaving their accommodation only for training and essential reasons.
“We’re not allowed out of the hotel except for essentials or medical visits,” the New Zealand Herald reported him as saying on the Gold Coast.
McLeod said the side knew “how to have some fun indoors” after facing coronavirus restrictions in the past.
“It’s something that’s unexpected but we’ve had it before and dealt with it really quickly,” he said.
The minor outbreak has also raised speculation that the rugby league grand final – scheduled for Saturday night in Brisbane – could be moved to the north Queensland city of Townsville.
The Penrith Panthers are due to play the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium in a match already shifted from Sydney for the first time in history as Australia’s biggest city grapples with a major coronavirus outbreak.
Rugby union will be the focus on Saturday, with the All Blacks set to take on the Springboks and the Pumas facing the Wallabies.