Wallabies fixture shift grants All Blacks' Christmas wish

Sydney (AFP) –


The All Blacks will make it home for Christmas after their final Rugby Championship clash against the Wallabies was shifted Thursday, defusing a festering row.

New Zealand Rugby was up in arms when the initial schedule of the four-nation southern hemisphere tournament in Australia was released, with their last game set for December 12.

They claimed it snubbed their push for a December 5 finish so players could complete covid-enforced quarantine requirements and be home for the festive season.

Governing body SANZAAR have relented with the December 12 game now being played in Sydney as the opening fixture on October 31, making the tournament a seven-week affair rather than six.

"We'd like to thank our colleagues at SANZAAR and Rugby Australia for the time and effort that has gone into finalising a schedule that is workable for all," said NZ Rugby chief Mark Robinson.

"It is great news that we now have certainty on the draw and we're really excited about the fantastic rugby to come."

Following the opening game, the revised draw will see five straight weeks of double-headers from November 7 when Argentina face South Africa then the All Blacks take on Australia again, both at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium.

Argentina are already in Australia and in quarantine, although the fate of South Africa remains uncertain, given their lack of match practice.

While Australia and New Zealand have both completed domestic Super Rugby tournaments, rugby only restarted in South Africa two weekends ago after a six-month suspension due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Opinions there are divided as to whether an inevitably underprepared squad should play -- partly to boost the coffers of a national body sorely hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

SANZAAR acknowledged the Springboks' participation "remains to be confirmed", but said there were positive signs with South Africa's domestic Super Rugby Unlocked tournament kicking off on Friday. A final decision is expected in the coming days.

Rugby Championship draw:

October 31 - Australia v New Zealand at Sydney's ANZ Stadium

November 7 - Argentina v South Africa followed by Australia v New Zealand at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium

November 14 - New Zealand v Argentina followed by South Africa v Australia at Sydney's Bankwest Stadium

November 21 - New Zealand v South Africa followed by Australia v Argentina at Sydney's ANZ Stadium

November 28 - Argentina v Australia followed by South Africa v New Zealand at Newcastle's McDonald Jones Stadium

December 5 - Argentina v New Zealand followed by Australia v South Africa at Sydney's Bankwest Stadium

December 12 - South Africa v Argentina at Newcastle's McDonald Jones Stadium.