All rugby in New Zealand has been suspended for the "foreseeable future" after the Government announced the country will go into lockdown this week.
All New Zealand teams will cease training - but at this stage, there are no decisions on the future of the Super Rugby competition or the All Blacks tests scheduled for July.
NZR chief executive Mark Robinson says the organisation's priority was the health and welfare of players, management and the wider rugby community at this "challenging time".
The five Kiwi franchises were working on the assumption they could start a domestic competition on April 4 but those plans have quickly been overtaken by a global crisis which has put a halt to almost all sporting competitions – grassroots and professional.
With the Crusaders, Chiefs and Highlanders already self-isolating and the Blues told to stay away from their Alexandra Park headquarters, the likelihood of a new competition starting was always tenuous but now it seems unlikely to say the least.
The latest developments will put enormous financial pressure on the Kiwi franchises and New Zealand Rugby, not to mention Sky Television, but the Government's announcement today that they will extend their Covid-19 financial relief package to include incorporated societies will presumably help keep NZ Rugby afloat.
NZ Rugby announced today all New Zealand teams will cease training, and at this stage there are no decisions on the future of the Investec Super Rugby competition or the All Blacks Tests scheduled for July.
Australian Rugby chief executive Raylene Castle this morning announced that the Aussie equivalent, slated to start on April 3, would be pushed out to May 1 after the Australian Government and various state and territory governments further restricted travel in a bit to contain the pandemic.
For New Zealand, level four on the coronavirus alert system means all travel is severely restricted, people are expected to stay at home, and only essential businesses are to remain operational. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the lift from level two to level three today, with level four to start in 48 hours and to last for four weeks at least.
Blues chief executive Andrew Hore told the Herald as recently as yesterday that he was hopeful a competition could still go ahead in some form, but was reluctant to discuss what a change to level three would represent.
He said a "tipping point" would see the end of it and that's what we appear to have now as the government attempts to get ahead of a virus that has killed many thousands around the world.
There are also the players to consider of course, and Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall has admitted he wouldn't feel comfortable playing in the current crisis.
"To be honest, not really," he told Radio Sport's Breakfast show this morning. "We're competitors and we'd love to play but being aligned with what the government wants us to do is the most important thing.
"First and foremost we have to be able to be healthy and stop the spread of the cornorvirus. Hopefully when that settles down we can resume rugby.
"Don't get us wrong, we'd love to be out there. But at this time we have to be smart. If you're playing with a lot of people that just adds risk to the coronavirus spreading.
"If we don't play there have been some great ideas to give some content to our fans and people.
"Hopefully we can continue our season … but if not we have to be brave and look at how we can get content out there for our fans to watch."
Hall's last comment is significant. Sky TV, who are seeing their share price fall alarmingly low and subscribers continue to leave due to the worldwide sports freeze, were understood to be big drivers of the competition, along with NZ Rugby, who have become minor shareholders in the company.
Content is essential for Sky TV's survival, but getting access to New Zealand's franchises in order to provide content of any kind is going to be increasingly difficult in the current environment.