New Zealand Rugby (NZR) is working with its Provincial Unions to determine how to safely re-start and complete the Bunnings Warehouse NPC, Farah Palmer Cup and Heartland Championship seasons as the country progresses through COVID-19 Alert Levels.
NZR’s three domestic competitions, as well as community rugby, will remain on hold until some, or all, of the country has moved down to Alert Level 2, at which point teams will be able to safely train and play matches.
Most of New Zealand, excluding Auckland and Northland will move to COVID Alert Level 3 from midnight tonight (Tuesday 31 August), but it remains uncertain when any regions will move to Alert Level 2.
NZR General Manager Community Rugby Steve Lancaster said it was difficult to predict when competitions would re-start, 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.”
“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.”
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.”
Provincial Rugby has so far been on hold for two weeks due to Alert Level 4 restrictions across the country. The Bunnings Warehouse NPC and FPC have 10 and 4 rounds of the competition left, respectively. Bunnings Warehouse Heartland Championship will kick off the competition at round 1.
While the competition remains on hold, naming rights sponsor Bunnings Warehouse has today announced 20 grassroots rugby clubs from across New Zealand will receive a share of $300,000 to upgrade their facilities. To find out more about the clubs receiving funding thanks to Bunnings Warehouse, click here.