Six Pumas players barred from Wallabies Test after Byron Bay trip
Six Argentina players and two management staff have been banned from participation in Saturday’s final Test against the Wallabies after being locked out of Queensland following an unauthorised day trip to Byron Bay.
Eight members of the country’s touring squad on Wednesday travelled over the border into New South Wales to visit a health retreat on a scheduled day off – three days before their Rugby Championship fixture on the Gold Coast – South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina Rugby (Sanzaar) has confirmed.
Their bus was stopped by police on Wednesday evening when the group attempted to return to their Gold Coast training base, Queensland police said. After failing to produce the appropriate documentation, they were denied entry and turned around. It is believed they spent the night at a Kingscliff hotel.
The Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) has named the eight team members as players Sebastián Cancelliere, Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, Felipe Ezcurra, Pablo Matera, Santiago Medrano and Santiago Socino, along with manager Lucas Chioccarelli and video analyst Rodrigo Martínez.
Queensland Health reinstated the non-restricted border zone rules for Tweed Heads and Byron Bay from 1am on Wednesday, meaning residents of the shires and Queenslanders travelling to these areas will be able to cross the expanded border bubble for work, education, compassionate care and essential shopping again, provided they have received one dose of vaccination.
However, the Pumas’ recreational visit to a health retreat did not meet that threshold.
In a statement on Thursday morning, Sanzaar said all members of the group will have no further involvement in the tournament because of their “direct breach of the present Queensland Government health orders”. They will remain in NSW until Sunday, when they will rejoin the squad to fly home.
The governing body said they had crossed the border “without the permission of the tournament and without seeking clarity on their ability to re-enter Queensland under the existing Covid border restrictions”.
“Sanzaar is very disappointed that such a breach has occurred given the clear rules that are in place to ensure the health and safety of all players and staff, and compliance with all relevant health orders,” the statement read. “Sanzaar would like to thank the Queensland government for their continued support and leadership in facilitating the Rugby Championship in the state over the last four consecutive weeks.”
Sanzaar said the match at Cbus Super Stadium will proceed as planned given Argentina’s plentiful playing squad of 44 players comfortably caters for the several absences, and the team will announce their matchday squad later on Thursday.
The UAR has started an internal process “to clarify and to determine responsibility for what has happened”.
“They are all in perfect good health, lodged at a hotel in the area, waiting for their current condition to be solved,” the UAR said. “For now, their only limitation is the temporary impossibility to go through the state jurisdiction and return to Queensland to meet the rest of the team members. For the UAR, bringing a solution to this issue has become a top priority.”
Argentina are bottom of the Rugby Championship table ahead of the final round and winless after losing 27-8 to the Wallabies in Townsville last Saturday night.