New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson is hopeful rugby will be able to return by April 18, but admits the date could be extended if the threat of coronavirus remains on a similar scale.

NZR announced the suspension of all club rugby until at least mid-April yesterday, which came after Super Rugby was suspended for at least two weeks.

Speaking to the Radio Sport Breakfast, Robinson said once NZR had the knowledge they need, it became clear what decision had to be made at the grassroots level.

Super Rugby: Confirmed - 'exciting' Kiwi-only competition is imminent
Coronavirus: All club and community rugby postponed until April 18
Coronavirus: NZ Rugby's emergency plan to replace Super Rugby
Rugby: Lack of meaningful tests is hurting the Southern Hemisphere game


"We talk a lot about people at this time don't we?" Robinson said. "And certainly our thoughts all over the weekend were all about the safety of our people that were offshore primarily and the management teams, and our own staff who were overseas for various reasons.

"I guess that flowed through to after the weekend where we paused and took stock of where the game was at and how rapidly things are changing with coronavirus, we had to be consistent with that around the way we care for people. So with a huge amount – over 150,000 people – participating in the game, we felt a duty of care to them to give them some certainty.

"We certainly had a lot of the provinces coming to us looking for more clarity around what we were going to do in this space. Once we combined the feedback with the Ministry of Health, government, Sport New Zealand and our other codes that we have dialogue with on these sort of matters, then it became a straight forward decision. Not an easy decision, but when you weighed up all the evidence and information we had, it became pretty clear what we had to do."

While grassroots rugby is on hold, the professional game could return sooner. Super Rugby has been suspended while the Highlanders are forced to observe 14-days in isolation having returned from Argentina after the new border restrictions were implemented by the government.

Minister of finance and sport Grant Robertson talks with The Breakdown team on what COVID-19 means for sport in NZ.

While the future of the Super Rugby season remains up in the air, the five New Zealand teams could launch their own, local competition which has been green-lighted by Sanzaar and would likely run over 10 to 12 weeks.

"The players want to play, the clubs want to be involved, NZR wants rugby, Sky and our commercial partners all want to see rugby and we think it's important at the moment, if we can in the environment that we're dealing with, that we look to lead and have rugby played," Robinson said.

"We'll be working within the confines of the mass gathering policy that's just been put out obviously, but we'd like to think we can see rugby in the near future after the two-weeks stand down. It's a little bit too early to say exactly what shape that takes, but we're hoping by the end of this week, the weekend at the latest, that we can share more detail around that."