All Blacks great Andrew Mehrtens has said he is "disappointed" with the decision by New Zealand Rugby (NZR) to pull out of next weekend's Test against Australia in Perth.
NZR announced on Friday they would be withdrawing from the third Bledisloe Cup clash with the Wallabies, scheduled for next Saturday, as well as scrapping two home Rugby Championship meetings with South Africa.
The move came after New Zealand extended a nationwide lockdown against the coronavirus and Mehrtens called on the All Blacks to do more to assist the sport in tackling the challenges stemming from the pandemic.
"I have to say, even as a Kiwi, I'm disappointed in the decision by NZR," Mehrtens wrote in his column in the Sydney Morning Herald.
"While I don't know all the ins and outs, nor what the requirements are for the various travel regions, I am a little confused.
"The All Blacks were always going to have to leave New Zealand, so wouldn't it have been better to do so sooner rather than later? The juggling act becomes less complicated when two or more teams are at least in the same location, surely.
"I think that given the public appetite for rugby and the responsibility that players have... it's disappointing that not all teams are sharing the load."
Australia head coach Dave Rennie has hit out at New Zealand over a lack of respect after it was announced the All Blacks would not travel to Perth this weekend ahead of the proposed third Bledisloe Cup Test on 28 August. https://t.co/skzWOkStvU #RTErugby— RTÉ Rugby (@RTErugby) August 20, 2021
The All Blacks won the first two Bledisloe Cup matches this month after both were played at Auckland's Eden Park following a decision by the New Zealand government to grant the Wallabies an exemption to pandemic travel restrictions.
No new venue or date has been decided for the postponed matches, with Queensland, Europe and South Africa among the possible options for the remaining matches to be played in the Rugby Championship.
"Are the Kiwis thinking about themselves? Perhaps," wrote Mehrtens, the All Blacks' second-highest point scorer of all time. "For the good of the game, it's a real shame.
"I can understand the logic of trying to condense the Rugby Championship and northern hemisphere tours into one period, but the apparent lack of unity and cohesion between Australia and New Zealand is really disappointing."