Only a miracle will salvage the All Blacks’ remaining home tests

While the good news for New Zealand came in the form of the PM's announcement of a plan for easing border restrictions it's not happening soon enough for the All Blacks.

The second Bledisloe test in a row at Eden Park looks like it will be the last time they play on New Zealand soil in 2021, with the Rugby Championship set to likely take place in Perth over the course of the next month.

That's a real shame, not just because it means for a third season in a row the players will have to make a long road trip after last year's Australian hosted tournament and the World Cup in 2019.

It means that the 100th test between the All Blacks and Springboks, originally set to be in Dunedin on 25 September in front of a packed house and in the same city as their first ever meeting in 1921, will now be played in Western Australia.

Unless some sort of exemption is made for both teams, that is. But given Jacinda Ardern shooting down the possibility of the NRL grand final being held here quicker than Richie Mo'unga can pick off an errant Wallabies pass, that isn't going to happen, despite the All Blacks due to be getting their second vaccination shot next week. Expect some sort of confirmation from SANZAAR around about the same time.

This will no doubt take a toll on the players in a time when the mental health of athletes is a hot topic. At the All Blacks team naming press conference Ian Foster was open about the fact that pressure on the All Blacks is nothing new, but the fact that the new environment meant that it seems as though "nothing is going to plan".

"That creates anxiety. So we just have to have an open, honest and vulnerable environment where we can deal with that."

This led to the recent passing of Olivia Podmore making its way into the conversation, which once again showed just how far reaching that tragic event is, to which Foster simply replied that "we have an environment where we don't like to not talk about things, and that's a positive way to be."

Prop Karl Tu'inukuafe backed that up by saying that some of the players with families had been in dialogue with management about the prospect of being away from home, saying that "the boys get around each other."

Not that it would be any comfort, but at least the All Blacks aren't alone.

The Wallabies will be based in Perth too, far away from where they actually live and if their families want to join them they will have to abide by the state's strict quarantine rules.

The New South Wales based players haven't been home in seven weeks and the entire squad faces the prospect of remaining there until their end of year tour as well.

Three men, Hunter Paisami, Allan Alaalatoa and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, have partners expecting to give birth soon. If they leave the squad to attend the births, there is no guarantee they can rejoin the team afterwards.

So it's little wonder the feeling around this Saturday's test is a little flat. The intrigue is almost non-existent: the All Blacks haven't put in two bad shifts in a row against the Wallabies in 20 years and won last Saturday's match comfortably despite being on the end of an 18-9 penalty count.

NZ Rugby will be happy with a crowd of 30,000, but that will still leave an awful lot of empty seats at a venue the All Blacks regard as their fortress.

Then they will be gone, maybe not back until the start of December. Hopefully the New Zealand they return to will be almost ready to open back up to the world by then.