At least one Northland rugby player has been caught up in a Covid-19 travel exemption botch-up that involves six provincial unions players from around New Zealand.
The six players travelled separately from Auckland to Northland, Wellington, Hawke's Bay, Manawatū and Bay of Plenty respectively to join their NPC squads over the last six to 10 days, after being granted a travel exemption via an online application process managed by their provincial unions.
The New Zealand Rugby Union removed the players from their NPC squads and is making arrangements to have them relocate back to Auckland after errors were discovered in their travel application exemptions.
Union chief executive Mark Robinson said the players, who have not been publicly named, were not at fault.
"The respective provincial unions managed an online application process to move their players out of Auckland, and although they provided full disclosure of their circumstances and intentions as professional rugby players, the forms were ultimately submitted incorrectly."
Northland Rugby Union chief executive Cameron Bell could not be reached for comment.
The public health and player welfare scare follows the resumption of NPC matches this weekend in areas outside of Auckland.
Northland has named a mix of new and seasoned campaigners for the clash against Tasman Mako in Whangārei this afternoon
as the side search for their
first win this season.
The match will be played with just 100 spectators in bubbles of 50 each, and the enormity of the challenge isn't lost on Northland skipper Jordan Olsen.
"Tasman are the defending champions, they're a good side all year round, but for us, we need to focus on our roles and find those weak points to exploit. Training has been good and the boys are pretty excited to get out there."
The Mako are laden with talent and have the ability to suffocate the best of teams with blistering pace, sleight of hand, tactical brilliance and general all-round skills from 1 to 15.
But Olsen said it was up to each player to do his core role well and the result will hopefully follow.
"The energy and excitement have been pretty good and hopefully we are able to transfer them on to the field. We get so much out of our supporters, they are the best in the country but with no crowd this time round, we have to find the motivation and energy to do well," he said.
One-hundred-match mainstay Ross Wright and Kaliopasi Ukuilakepa form the front row as props, alongside Olsen who's been named in his usual position of hooker.
Veteran Josh Goodhue and hard-running Sam Caird are the locking pair, to be assisted by workaholic No 8 Rob Rush, while Waipu teammates Raikabula Momoedonu and Jonah Mau'u will wear the No 6 and No 7 jerseys respectively.
Mau'u is making his debut and comes up against Sione Havili in what's shaping up as a dogfight at the breakdown. All Black Shannon Frizell at No 8 for the Mako further strengthens the defending champions.
Seasoned campaigner Sam Nock and Rivez Reihana will form the halves pair for Northland and Noah Cooper will man the fullback berth.
It's a largely predictable midfield, minus blockbusting centre Rene Ranger. Scott Gregory will partner Blake Hohaia, while Jone Macilai and Pisi Leilua are the twin wings.
Kara Pryor is back in the Cambridge Blue after plying his trade overseas, and has been named on the bench.
The Mako pummelled Northland 54-21 when they met in Blenheim last year and most of the players from the South Island-based side who had a hand in that win have been named in the run-on side today.
They include damaging ball runner Leicester Fainga'anuku and superboot Mitch Hunt.
Today's match kicks off at 4.30pm and will screen live on Sky Sport.