Plans to prepare for the return of community rugby will begin in earnest when COVID-19 alert level two begins, following guidance about organised sport from Sport New Zealand on Thursday.
NZR Chief Executive Mark Robinson said the guidelines provided clarity for provincial unions, clubs and schools, and meant staff and volunteers could make robust plans for how rugby could be played across New Zealand.
“This is an encouraging step for all our thousands of players, coaches, referees and volunteers who’ve been missing their weekend footy over the past couple of months. We look forward to being back on the grass when we’re cleared to do so.”
NZR is developing COVID-19 training resources for clubs, volunteers and schools to help them prepare for a return to play.
The government announced that a decision to move to Level 2 would be made on Monday, with a 48-hour lead-in giving a hoped for start of Wednesday 13 May.
Club rugby and community rugby across New Zealand could be underway by the end of May.
It is vital for the immediate health of the game that junior rugby, school rugby, club rugby and professional rugby in that order of importance gets underway in 2020, should it be safe to resume playing.
As an afterthought, Super Rugby and later National Provincial Championship rugby will also be on the cards.
“For our fans, our players and everyone involved in Super Rugby, we are thrilled that the Sports Minister has given the green light for professional sport to resume at level two,” said NZR Chief Executive Mark Robinson.
“Both netball and rugby have been working closely with Government agencies on what training and playing at level two could look like, and we are incredibly grateful for their support.”
“As soon as the country announces what date we move to alert level two, we will be able to confirm what date Super Rugby will kick off.”
A proposed competition will involve New Zealand’s five teams – the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders – and has been developed by NZR in conjunction with SANZAAR, the Super Rugby clubs and the NZ Rugby Players’ Association (NZRPA).
The five teams will play each other home and away over 10 weeks, with two matches every weekend. All matches will be played in closed stadiums.
“Kiwi rugby fans love the local Super Rugby derbies, and they will now have 10 consecutive rounds to enjoy,” said Robinson.
He said the players would need three to four weeks to adequately prepare with contact training before matches could commence.
Robinson said they were still working through the details of the National Provincial Championship Mitre 10 Cup and Farah Palmer Cup competitions, but they wanted to preserve the integrity of these competitions where they could. A decision on the All Blacks Steinlager Series in July against Wales and Scotland will be made in the next fortnight.