Argentina players banned from Wallabies Test after border mix-up

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Argentina will be without six players, including star flanker Pablo Matera, after an ill-advised trip from the Gold Coast to Byron Bay resulted in them being barred from re-entering Queensland. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)
Argentina will be without six players, including star flanker Pablo Matera, after an ill-advised trip from the Gold Coast to Byron Bay resulted in them being barred from re-entering Queensland. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

An ill-advised trip from the Gold Coast to Byron Bay has ruled six of Argentina's players out of Saturday's Rugby Championship clash with the Wallabies, after they were barred from re-entering Queensland from NSW.

Argentina will be without world-class flanker Pablo Matera and five other members of the playing squad, as well as two staff members, after they journeyed into NSW to visit a health retreat.

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The four-nation competition's governing body SANZAAR was scathing of the trip, ruling the six players ineligible for Saturday's match as arrangement are worked out for them to rejoin the team.

The Pumas are scheduled to return to Argentina on Sunday.

After being turned back at the Queensland border following their trip to Byron Bay, the group was forced to stay in a Kingscliffe hotel.

Queensland Police confirmed to AAP that they were working with 'other agencies' to arrange for the group to rejoin the team.

In a statement, SANZAAR said the trip was a poor decision and one that reflected poorly on the sport.

"This travel across the state border is a direct breach of the present Queensland Government health orders and SANZAAR's Rugby Championship tournament biosecurity plan," a SANZAAR statement read.

"These team members ... crossed the border on their scheduled day off 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."

Restrictions on cross-border travel were loosened this week, but only for residents of Tweed Heads, Byron Bay and Queensland travelling for work, education, care or essential shopping.

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Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) released a statement on Thursday saying those involved were "all in perfect good health, lodged at a hotel in the area, waiting for their current condition to be solved".

"For the UAR, bringing a solution to this issue has become a top priority," the statement read.

"The Union is making its best efforts at the institutional level to provide assistance so as to facilitate the players' and staff members' return as soon as possible.

"At the same time, an internal process has been put into place in order to clarify and to determine responsibility for what has happened."

Pumas star Pablo Matera has been ruled 'ineligible' for Saturday's clash with the Wallabies, along with five other teammates. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)
Pumas star Pablo Matera has been ruled 'ineligible' for Saturday's clash with the Wallabies, along with five other teammates. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

Argentina have twice visited Australia in the past year despite the tough COVID-19 restrictions, arriving this time via stops for Tests in Wales and South Africa.

They upset New Zealand and drew twice with the Wallabies last year, but have lost all five Rugby Championship games in 2021.

After Saturday's loss to Australia in Townsville, coach Mario Ledesma said his side felt disrespected when a promotional photo and video shoot featuring the Wallabies, South African and New Zealand captains went ahead without them.

SANZAAR later apologised for the snub.

The Wallabies and Argentina will name their teams for Saturday's Test later on Thursday.

With AAP

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