New Zealand coach Ian Foster has urged World Rugby to suspend its global rankings amidst the uncertainty in the Test arena due to Covid-19.
The All Blacks are set to face the Wallabies in home Bledisloe Cup Tests on October 11 and 18 and there is talk coming out of South Africa that the Springboks should not even bother to participate in the revamped Rugby Championship which is scheduled to take place in Australia over a six-week period from November 7 to December 12.
Both New Zealand and Australia have had full internal Super Rugby tournaments since the global shutdown of sport due to the coronavirus pandemic, while South Africa must still launch their domestic competition.
Argentina are in a similar situation but also have concerns over the welfare of their Test squad as more than a dozen Pumas players and coaches have tested positive for Covid-19 infections during the last two weeks.
With South African teams still out of action, former Springboks captain Wynand Claassen recently told the world champions not to play in the postponed Rugby Championship as they will be woefully under-prepared and could suffer embarrassing defeats against the All Blacks and Wallabies.
But Foster feels that it is important for Tests to played as rugby unions need to replenish heavily depleted international coffers, although he acknowledged Claassen’s point and challenged rugby’s global leaders to recognise the unprecedented nature of what they were dealing with.
“From a New Zealand Rugby side, from the revenue side, it’s vital,” he told Stuff.
“It’s vital for both sides of the Tasman, it’s vital for South Africa and Argentina. It’s why the four countries have voted to play the Rugby Championship.
🗣️ "The trans-Tasman rivals are set to face off at Wellington’s Sky Stadium on Sunday, October 11 and a week later at Eden Park in Auckland on Sunday, October 18." #BledisloeCup
🇳🇿 New Zealand’s home Bledisloe Cup Tests confirmed. 👇https://t.co/5e5yZyXMiw
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) September 15, 2020
“And I think from a national perspective it’s equally as vital. All Blacks Tests are something to be looked forward to. It’s up to the public to decide how much they enjoy it, but to us it’s a massive opportunity to represent our country in what’s been a really difficult year.
“I even hear talk from a South African ex-captain that the Springboks shouldn’t come because they might lose their world ranking with their preparation. Well, let’s can the world rankings for this year. Who really cares?
“What’s more important right now is we get the game on the park, and we put some international rugby on the park and let people enjoy it. Of course we want to win and be number one, but I‘d hate to let little things like that stand in the road of us playing international rugby.”
Apart from the financial benefits to be accrued, Foster also highlighted the rugby spin-offs from playing international rugby during these unprecedented times.
“There are some massive upsides to this,” he added.
“If you look from the rugby side we are going to be forced to build some depth. We are going to be forced to play some players and give them a chance in the Test arena, when perhaps they wouldn’t have had it.
“If we look at that constructively, what a great opportunity it is to grow some depth. We’re also going to be putting players in a pressured environment, away from their families a long time, away from their natural support. We’re going to learn a lot about people.
“We put the same challenge to players in Super Rugby Aotearoa – to come out of isolation, in a short period to get ready, and they responded magnificently. We’ve got a lot of faith in our group that we’ll do the same.”