New Zealand Rugby has labelled as “unacceptable” the actions of a group of Canterbury Crusaders players who breached the country’s strict coronavirus lockdown rules on Monday by training together in a local park.
The players, including All Blacks flyhalf Richie Mo’unga, were filmed informally training in Christchurch where they were shown keeping their distance but passing and kicking a ball between each other.
New Zealand’s nationwide lockdown restricts people from leaving their homes unless it is for essential services like groceries. They can exercise as individuals or with people in the same lockdown ‘bubble’.
“Some of the Crusaders players have not followed these rules and that is unacceptable,” NZR Chief executive Mark Robinson said in comments published by the New Zealand Herald yesterday.
“We have reminded everyone involved in rugby that they must abide by the New Zealand government Covid-19 guidelines and this situation must not happen again.”
The Crusaders, the 10-times Super Rugby champions, downplayed the breach late on Monday, but the team’s Chief Executive Colin Mansbridge said they had reminded the players of their responsibilities.
“All of the players involved have acknowledged they made a mistake by sharing equipment,” Mansbridge said in a statement.
“This is a timely and valuable lesson for all. “We have reiterated the guidelines to both the group directly involved, and our wider Crusaders squad to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
The team said the players, two separate groups of flatmates, all lived within walking distance of the park and it was coincidental they were exercising at the same time. “The club is confident this was not an organised training session among the group,” the statement said.
“While these players made a conscious effort to observe physical distancing, they did share equipment by throwing and kicking a rugby ball among themselves.”
European rugby bosses confirm Club World Cup discussions
Club rugby’s top organising body is exploring holding a Club World Cup after French federation president Bernard Laporte proposed a radical new competition to replace the existing European Champions Cup.
However, European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) said the new competition would complement the existing continental competitions and not replace them.
“Discussions have already taken place on an official level between EPCR and its shareholders regarding a global club tournament which could complement the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup and which could take place once every four years,” said the organisation’s statement.
“Work on possible formats is ongoing with a collaborative approach and issues of player welfare to the fore.
The EPCR also appeared to criticise Laporte for discussing the plans while the world fights to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has caused all major sporting events across the globe to be cancelled or postponed. “EPCR does not believe it appropriate to highlight such discussions while the public health crisis due to Covid-19 continues,” added the statement. “Currently, the organisation’s focus is on attempting to reschedule the knockout stages of the 2019/20 tournaments subject to government and local authority directives.”
Laporte, who is looking to be elected World Rugby vice-chairman in the governing body’s vote next month, proposed a Club World Cup to replace the current competitions in a bid to increase club revenues that have taken a hit due to the coronavirus pandemic. He said he has had the idea in the works along with World Rugby’s chairman Bill Beaumont.
“This crisis must push us to be innovative. Let’s make this new competition, I’m sure that the public, partners and televisions will follow,” Laporte was quoted as saying by French newspaper Midi Olympique. Reuters
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