Ex-captain Pablo Matera among six Argentina players stranded in NSW after Byron Bay trip

Pablo Matera is one of six Argentina players stuck in northern New South Wales.
Pablo Matera is one of six Argentina players stuck in northern New South Wales.

Former Argentina captain Pablo Matera is one of six Pumas players stranded in New South Wales (NSW) following a day trip to Byron Bay.

Matera, Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, Felipe Ezcurra, Sebastian Cancelliere, Santiago Medrano, Santiago Socino and two Pumas staff travelled to a Byron Bay health retreat from the Gold Coast on Wednesday.

The group was stopped at the border on Wednesday evening when they tried to return to Queensland and had to spend the evening at a hotel.

The six players have since been ruled ineligible for selection, but the Wallabies’ Rugby Championship test against Argentina at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday will go ahead.

Individuals are only allowed to enter northern NSW for essential work, medical reasons or on compassionate grounds. The Pumas’ trip did not fall into this category.

In a statement released on Thursday, Sanzaar labelled the incident “very disappointing”.

“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,” the statement read.

“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.”

The Pumas lost to Australia in Townsville last Saturday night.

Argentina Rugby said in a translated statement that “all players are in perfect health, staying in a hotel in the area, waiting for their condition to be resolved.

The statement described the position of the players to join the rest of the squad in Queensland as a “momentary impossibility”.

“The UAR is making solving this problem a top priority. To do this, it is carrying out all the necessary steps at the institutional level and providing all the assistance to facilitate the return of the players and staff as soon as possible.

“In parallel, an internal process has begun to clarify what happened and determine the corresponding responsibilities.”

The clash against the Wallabies at Cbus Super Stadium is in no jeopardy. Argentina will name a full team of 23 players on Thursday to face the Wallabies.

The Pumas have a big enough squad – comprising of 44 players – to cover the loss of the six players who cannot get back into Queensland.

The match on the weekend is Argentina and Australia’s final fixture of the Rugby Championship.

It comes just days after Pumas coach Mario Ledesma slammed Rugby Australia and Sanzaar for a captains’ photoshoot that went ahead without a representative from Argentina.

Sanzaar now face a logistical headache as the team was set to leave Australia on a charter flight out of Brisbane on Sunday.

The governing body must now negotiate with the Queensland government for the six players and two staff members to be allowed back into Queensland, so they can travel directly to Brisbane Airport, or move the remainder of the squad to Sydney, where they can link up with the group stranded in NSW.