The Farah Palmer Cup (FPC) presented by Bunnings Warehouse will continue without Auckland, Counties-Manukau and North Harbour, who have collectively accepted they are unable to continue in the competition due to their inability to train or play under COVID-19 Alert Levels.
The final week of the regular season of the Bunnings Warehouse FPC Premiership and Championship will be completed with the remaining 10 teams, with the respective finals series to be played on the first two weekends October.
New Zealand Rugby (NZR) General Manager Community Rugby Steve Lancaster said the decision been made in consultation with the three Auckland-based Provincial Unions and the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association.
“It’s tough on the Auckland-based players who desperately wanted to represent their provinces in the final weeks of the competition, but after consulting with all parties it was clear we could not extend the competition any later than we have already. We needed to provide certainty to all involved in the competition and ultimately pushing out the finals again, while the Auckland-based teams are unable to train or play was just not feasible at this time,” Lancaster said.
In the Bunnings Warehouse FPC Premiership, defending champions Waikato and current leaders Canterbury have already qualified for the finals series with Wellington Pride also in the hunt for a semi-finals spot.
If Wellington beat the Bay of Plenty Volcanix in their final match of the regular season at Blake Park in Mount Maunganui this Saturday (25 September) they will join Canterbury and Waikato in a three team finals series that will see the top qualifier go through to the final and the second and third placed sides play a preliminary final.
However, if Wellington lose to Bay of Plenty they will exit the competition. With Canterbury and Waikato going straight to the final where they will play each other the following weekend.
The Bunnings Warehouse FPC Championship will go straight to the three-team finals format where current leaders the Manawatu Cyclones will be joined by Northland and the Hawke’s Bay.
“In consultation with the Provincial Unions, it was confirmed that we would not replace Auckland teams with teams below them on the points table. For the integrity of the competition, it was agreed that only teams who qualified for the play-offs would progress beyond the end of pool play.”
“While it’s not the finish to the season we’d all hoped for, the positive is that we can look forward to some really meaningful fixtures over the next three weeks and a continuation of the exciting rugby we’ve seen throughout the season,” Lancaster said.
Under current COVID-19 Alert Level 2, the Bunnings Warehouse FPC can continue throughout the rest of New Zealand (outside of Auckland region) if Ministry of Health and NZ Rugby COVID-19 guidelines are followed, including restrictions on mass gathering, contact tracing and hygiene protocols. Ministry of Health Alert Level 2 guidelines can be found here.
Individual Provincial Unions will determine whether those guidelines are able to be met for this weekend’s rugby and will communicate directly with their respective clubs and schools.