(Reuters) – Wellington Hurricanes captain Ardie Savea has criticised New Zealand Rugby for scheduling matches in Dunedin, forcing players to take four-hour bus trips to and from games in the South Island city.
New Zealand’s six teams have all been moved to a hub in the tourist resort of Queenstown because of COVID-19.
They were originally set to play night matches in Invercargill but organisers shifted them to Dunedin, a further hour and 20 minutes’ drive away on a long and winding road, saying it was the teams’ preferred option.
“It’s not ideal, being on a bus for four hours, then having to play a professional rugby game, against a quality side — you think of the health and safety there,” All Blacks loose forward Savea told reporters on Friday.
“We’re trusting our trainers to just try and come up with something that will help us prep well. I think all the teams will be in the same situation.
“But we’ve got guys coming back from long-term injuries, and they’re quite nervous sitting on a bus for four hours and then having to play their first game.
“Hopefully with all this Covid stuff we’re able to go back home and play instead of driving four hours to play a match.”
The New Zealand teams will be based in Queenstown for at least the first three weeks of the competition which kicks off later on Friday when the New South Wales Waratahs host Fijian Drua in Sydney.
The Hurricanes meet the Canterbury Crusaders in their season-opener in Dunedin on Saturday.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)