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Thursday Sep 30, 2021

Pablo Matera amongst banned group who breached health rules

Six Argentina players and two staff members have been expelled from the Rugby Championship for breaching tournament health rules.

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The competition is being held under strict protocols with restricted travel because of coronavirus cases in Queensland.

The group, including former Pumas captain Pablo Matera, broke the rules by taking an unauthorised trip to the popular beachside town of Byron Bay in the neighbouring state of New South Wales.

The contingent tried to re-enter Queensland without appropriate documentation before being forced to spend the night in Kingscliff.

Queensland Police confirmed discussions with “other agencies” for their return were ongoing.

According to the Argentina rugby union (UAR), the group also comprised Sebastian Cancelliere, Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, Felipe Ezcurra, Santiago Medrano and Santiago Socino, plus team manager Lucas Chioccarelli and video analyst Rodrigo Martinez.

Tournament governing body Sanzaar said in a statement:

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“Sanzaar has informed Argentina Rugby that all members of this group are now ineligible to participate further in the Rugby Championship as they have breached tournament rules.

“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.”

Argentina, who are yet to win a game in the competition, play their final match on Saturday against Australia.

Coach Mario Ledesma said the tournament’s biosecurity protocols made it impossible to defend the actions of the stranded players and staff.

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“The rules were clear for everybody,” he said.

“It was a day off, they made that decision and the situation is what it is.

“We will talk about that when the tournament is finished. Now it’s time for rugby. Now we have to think of preparing the team in the best way possible.”

The Argentina rugby union said that the players are “all in perfect good health, lodged at a hotel in the area, waiting for their current condition to be solved. 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.”

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