Rugby: Trans-Tasman relationship at all-time low - RA chair Hamish McLennan

Dissension between NZ Rugby and its Australian counterpart has brewed for several months, with Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan admitting the relationship is at its "lowest ebb".

The COVID-19 pandemic put an end to Super Rugby as we know it, with domestic competitions forming on both sides of the Tasman in its place.

As discussions heated up over what Super Rugby might look like beyond 2020, Rugby Australia insisted it would accept nothing less than five teams as part of that makeup - NZR disagreed and the composition of a 2021 competition is still not clear.

NZR seemed to have the Rugby Championship in the bag, but SANZAAR selected Australia as host nation for the six-week tournament, set to start in November.

A public spat ensued over Wallabies quarantine restrictions for the upcoming Bledisloe Cup series in New Zealand.

Speaking to The Breakdown on Sky Sport, McLennan says he hopes the relationship is repairable, after a friction-filled six months. 

"There is respect there, but I think the relationship is probably at the lowest ebb it's ever been at," he says. "I will try my hardest to fix that over time."

One of NZR's major gripes is a six-week Rugby Championship schedule that would see All Blacks squad and staff spending Christmas in quarantine. NZR says it agreed on a five-week competition, something that both SANZAAR and Rugby Australia disputes.

McLennan reveals Rugby Australia sided with NZR originally, but was forced to change tack, when South Africa and Argentina refused to budge. He says at the latest SANZAAR meeting, the schedule was set and all parties agreed.

"On September 17, at the Sanzaar meeting, those dates were agreed. We are conscious of player welfare and want to do good by everyone, but the schedule has been locked in.

"We know, as of today, there are other options on the table, so we need to reconcile those and have a look at them.

"A six-week competition is more commercially viable. More money will be made in Australia with a six-week competition, which will put more money in the pockets of NZ Rugby and we are really conscious of driving that. 

"At the September 17 board meeting - and remember SANZAAR runs the competition, not Rugby Australia - we voted along with New Zealand for a five-week competition and we were defeated.

"South Africa and Argentina want a six-week competition - we can't change that."

Reports suggest SANZAAR chief Andy Marinos is on the shortlist for the Rugby Australia chief executive position, left vacant by the abrupt departure of Raelene Castle earlier this year.

That would have created a conflict of interest for Marinos in the decision to stage the Rugby Championship in Australia over New Zealand.

McLennan has rubbished the reports, calling them a "cheap shot".

"Andy Marinos is a fine man, an ethical guy who has done the right thing for SANZAAR rugby over many years.

"He is not shortlisted for the Rugby Australia job. 

"He is highly respected both here and around the world, but he is not on the shortlist, he hasn't been interviewed for the role and I haven't spoken to him about it.

"I think that is a complete cheap shot from the New Zealand media."

Hamish Mclennan
Hamish Mclennan Photo credit: Getty

McLennan hopes a resolution can be found to ensure the All Blacks are clear of quarantine by Christmas Day, but is pleading with NZR not to boycott the final game of the tournament on December 12, if a solution can't be found.

"I'd be really concerned about a boycott. That would be a tragedy for the Rugby Championship and the game. 

"It's still 10 weeks away and we are seeing restrictions unwinding a little bit here. 

"We all need to take a deep breath, stand back a little bit, and hope and plan it all ends well."

Join us for live updates of the Bledisloe Cup series first test on October 11.