Brisbane (Australia) (AFP)
Argentina’s rugby championship clash with Australia was plunged into chaos on Thursday after six players were kicked out for violating coronavirus restrictions with unauthorized travel to a health retreat.
The Argentina team group, which also included two staff members, headed for Byron Bay from their Gold Coast base and were arrested when they attempted to cross the state border into Queensland on Wednesday .
Under Covid-19 rules, anyone entering Queensland from a designated Covid hotspot area, such as neighboring New South Wales, must have clearance or face a mandatory quarantine.
“This trip across the state border is a direct violation of current Queensland government health orders and the Sanzaar Rugby Tournament biosecurity plan,” said governing body Sanzaar, adding that it was ” very disappointed”.
“All members of this group are no longer eligible to participate in the Rugby Championship because they have broken the tournament rules.”
Argentina have a 44-man squad and the game will take place on the Gold Coast on Saturday, but with capacity capped at 75% at Cbus Super Stadium after the state imposed further restrictions on Thursday following six new cases. communities of Covid-19.
The players involved were Sebastian Cancelliere, Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, Felipe Ezcurra, Pablo Matera, Santiago Medrano and Santiago Socino.
Tighthead mainstay Medrano and No.8 Matera, a former captain, are first-team regulars who started the 27-8 loss to Australia last weekend, while hooker Socino frequently comes out of the bench.
It’s another headache for coach Mario Ledesma, whose team have lost all five of their tournament games so far.
He drafted Enrique Pieretto to replace Medrano and Rodrigo Bruni for Matera among the five changes to the racing team.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has said Argentina’s problems were not his concern as Australia pursue four straight wins for the first time in the rugby championship.
“The focus is on us,” he said after naming 38-year-old mainstay Greg Holmes on the bench for his first game since 2016 and rower Sean McMahon for his first since 2017.
“I have obviously discussed it (the Argentinian players), but I think there are a lot of motivators for them.
“Whoever we are in front of us, we will take care of it the same day.”
– Priority –
Holmes will become the oldest Wallaby since WWII after being brought to camp to help young players last month.
Rennie has made three changes to her squad, with Pete Samu starting on the blind side, while Jordan Petaia has a chance on the wing with Marika Koroibete given the week off.
Darcy Swain pivots in the starting second row with Matt Philip on the bench.
Argentina Rugby (UAR) said players and staff stranded in New South Wales were locked in a hotel awaiting their fate.
“For the RAU, finding a solution to this problem has become a top priority,” he said.
“At the same time, an internal process was put in place to clarify and determine responsibility for what happened.”
The scandal comes just days after Ledesma lashed out at Sanzaar and Rugby Australia for being “disrespectful” because a captains photoshoot in Townsville last week took place without Pumas skipper Julian Montoya.
Sanzaar and Rugby Australia then apologized.
Australia (15-1): Reece Hodge; Jordan Petaia, Len Ikitau, Samu Kerevi, Andrew Kellaway; Quade Cooper, Nic White; Rob Valetini, Michael Hooper (captain), Pete Samu; Darcy Swain, Izack Rodda; Taniela Tupou, Folau Fainga’a, James Slipper
Replacements: Lachlan Lonergan, Angus Bell, Greg Holmes, Matt Philip, Sean McMahon, Jack Gordon, James O’Connor, Tom Wright
Argentina (15-1): Juan Cruz Mallia; Matias Moroni, Lucio Cinti, Santiago Chocobares, Emiliano Boffelli; Santiago Carreras, Gonzalo Bertranou, Rodrigo Bruni; Marcos Kremer, Juan Martin Gonzalez; Tomas Lavanini, Guido Petti; Enrique Pieretto, Julian Montoya (captain), Rodrigo Martinez
Replacements: Facundo Bosch, Thomas Gallo, Eduardo Bello, Matias Alemanno, Francisco Gorrissen, Gonzalo Garcia, Domingo Miotti, Mateo Carreras
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