Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 May 2020

New Zealand welcomes return of professional rugby after coronavirus alert level drops

The country’s five Super Rugby teams will play each other home and away over 10 weeks, starting on Saturday June 13

Richie Mo’unga and defending champions Crusaders will face the Hurricanes on June 21 in their first Super Rugby Aotearoa fixture. Reuters
Richie Mo’unga and defending champions Crusaders will face the Hurricanes on June 21 in their first Super Rugby Aotearoa fixture. Reuters

Professional rugby will return to New Zealand next month after it was announced the country will move to a Covid-19 alert level two.

The country’s five Super Rugby teams will play each other home and away over 10 weeks, starting on Saturday June 13.

It gives the players from the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders four weeks to prepare for the competition, which will be known as Super Rugby Aotearoa.

All the matches will be played behind closed doors. As per the guidelines set out by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday, social gatherings in the country, such as weddings and funeral, will be kept to a maximum of 10 people.

“Further detail on sport obviously we're continuing to work through with community sport, in particular - but that's guidance that's being developed at the moment,” the Prime Minister said.

The Super Rugby players and management staff will be subjected to daily symptom and temperature checks.

There will also be “stringent hygiene and cleaning”, contact tracing, and anyone who feels unwell will be advised to stay away, self-isolate and get tested.

The teams will also fly to and from games by charter flights on match days.

“A major factor will be ensuring we control who enters the team bubbles and that we have necessary measures in place to mitigate against any risk to the health of all team members, as well as the health of their families and the wider community,” Karen Rasmussen, the NZR medical manager, said.

“Team members will be asked to minimise their contacts outside of the team environment and their family bubbles.”

Super Rugby Aotearoa fixtures. Super Rugby NZ / Twitter
Super Rugby Aotearoa fixtures. Super Rugby NZ / Twitter

The Highlanders will play the Chiefs in Dunedin on the opening day, with the Blues playing the Hurricanes in Auckland on Sunday June 14.

“The thought of five world-class Kiwi teams battling it out in 20 matches over 10 weeks should put a smile back on the faces of many people,” Mark Robinson, New Zealand Rugby’s chief executive, said.

“I know our players are excited and I’m sure rugby fans will be as well.

“Medical and operational staff across NZR, the Players’ Association and the clubs have been working together to ensure we have detailed plans in place to protect the health and safety of everyone involved.”

Updated: May 11, 2020 10:11 AM

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