Blues chief executive Andrew Hore says he, like his counterparts at New Zealand's four other Super Rugby franchises with whom he is in near constant dialogue during the coronavirus pandemic, is working on the basis the Kiwi replacement competition remains on track.

Like all those connected with the sport which has been halted around the world due to the fast-spreading outbreak, Hore is hopeful something can be salvaged from the season and that the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders can return to the field sooner rather than later, but he is aware that the situation is changing so quickly it's difficult to plan with any certainty.

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"Things have progressed a long way," Hore told the Herald today. "There is definitely an intention to have a competition, there's no doubt about that, and people have worked really proactively – the New Zealand Rugby Players' Association, the ministry of health, New Zealand Rugby and the franchises have all put a shift in with a view that there can be benefits in doing it.

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"That said, at the moment we're at stage two and we don't know how quickly this could evolve.

"There is a tipping point – when is something deemed beneficial to society and when isn't it? That's a watching brief and having good relationships with the ministry of health and other governments helps. And we're only one small sector that the government has to deal with at the moment.

"We're just keeping an eye on things at this stage and preparing for the best of circumstances to potentially have a competition."

It is understood that the competition has a proposed starting date of Saturday, April 4. But the obvious question is what happens if and when New Zealand's pandemic alert level goes from two to three.

Level two means the virus is contained but the risk of community transmission is growing. Restrictions on mass gatherings and non-essential travel around the country are in place.

A move to level three – heightened risk that the disease is not contained – would see the closure of public venues and presumably force the cancellation of a domestic rugby competition.

Asked what a level three alert status would mean for the competition, Hore said: "There would be further dialogue. At this stage we're almost living in 24-hour pockets. We have regular dial-ins with stakeholders and I wouldn't want to speculate on that right now.

TJ Perenara of the Hurricanes in action against the Blues earlier this season. Photosport
TJ Perenara of the Hurricanes in action against the Blues earlier this season. Photosport

"There's a board meeting tomorrow and an all-staff meeting. It is no different to any other companies around the country that are looking at ways to work within the boundaries set."


After their victory over the Lions at Eden Park on March 14, the Blues treated last week as a bye week; there were no team trainings but they used the gym facilities at their Alexandra Park headquarters and physiotherapy and other medical treatment remained available as normal.

"As a senior management team we brainstormed all the potential risk factors and have tried to mitigate those risks," Hore said. "I must say the players who have come in and used the gym have been extremely respectful of using the alcohol sprays to clean everything down."

It is understood that the players were due to train on the field as normal from tomorrow, but that that is no longer the case and that they will follow their own programmes in the gym or at home.

Hore, a Kiwi in his first season at the franchise after moving from an equivalent role at the Waratahs in Sydney, said a majority of his staff were asked to take annual leave last week, with a small group remaining to focus on planning.

The team were scheduled to play the Brumbies at Eden Park in a double header with the Warriors yesterday, but that was cancelled last Sunday and Beauden Barrett's highly anticipated return to the game via his Coastal club in Taranaki has gone the same way.

Hore, like his players and in fact the rest of the world, can only plan for the best while preparing for the alternative.

"It's evolving really fast and things can change very quickly in 24 hours," he said.