New Zealand Rugby says its three domestic competitions, as well as community rugby, will remain on hold until some, or all, of the country has moved down to Covid-19 alert level 2.
In a statement, NZR says it is working with its provincial unions to determine how to safely restart and complete the NPC, Farah Palmer Cup and Heartland Championship seasons as the country progresses through alert levels.
Provincial rugby has been on hold for two weeks due to alert level 4 restrictions across the country. The NPC and FPC have 10 and four rounds of the competition left, respectively, while the Heartland Championship is yet to get under way.
The rest of New Zealand outside Auckland and Northland will move down to level 3 on Wednesday, with potential for a level 2 downgrade in some regions next week although nothing has been confirmed.
Charles Alaimalo of Southland dives over against Bay of Plenty during the round two NPC match on August 15.
NZR general manager community rugby, Steve Lancaster, said it was difficult to predict when competitions would restart, but contingency planning was underway.
“Our goal is to get our teams back on the field as soon as possible and our competitions back underway, but we will not compromise the safety and welfare of our players or fans, so we are asking our provincial unions, players and fans to be patient,” Lancaster said.
“We can’t predict when alert levels will change, but we are preparing ourselves for the potential that we could be in a position to safely play rugby in some areas but not others at some stage. If that’s the case, we will push on with the rugby we are able to play.
“We have some wriggle room later in the year to play Bunnings NPC, FPC and Heartland Championship matches, and we can push into November in order to complete the competitions.”
Daimzel Rongokea of the Otago Spirit scores a try against Waikato in Dunedin on August 7.
As it stands, the NPC final is scheduled on October 23, with players entitled to four weeks’ leave before pre-season Super Rugby training typically starts in December.
“We don’t know for sure what that date is,” Lancaster told Stuff last week when asked if the NPC could finish as late as November 28, as it did last year.
Lancaster cautioned a return to play would not happen instantly under alert level 2.
“Player welfare is paramount, and our teams will need an adequate lead in time to prepare physically before taking the field, so we will build that into our protocols.”
While the competition remains on hold, naming rights sponsor Bunnings Warehouse announced 20 grassroots rugby clubs from across New Zealand will receive a share of $300,000 to upgrade their facilities.