Relief is the prevailing emotion as New Zealand Rugby takes the first step in its long-projected financial recovery mission.
Super Rugby's domestic return, in the form of a 10-week Kiwi-only derby competition, is expected to start around June 13 following the expected progression to alert level 2 next week, and a window for teams to regain contact conditioning.
With the Government approving professional sport's return behind closed doors and under strict protocols, New Zealand will be thrust into the sporting limelight as the likely first rugby union code to return in the world.
Although the NRL continues to work towards its May 28 return date, NZ Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson has fielded calls from counterparts seeking details of their return to play plans.
"We're delighted with the news and for the country as much as anything that there's progress being made," Robinson said. "There's a sense of relief and excitement for Kiwis to start getting out and enjoying normal life, hopefully sometime soon.
"It's great to have the first opportunity to lead the world in this case. Our teams are taking that very seriously in terms of the medical protocols we're talking about.
"I've certainly had some of our colleagues from around the world reaching out to understand what processes we're working through.
"We know a lot of people will be watching, and we know it's an opportunity to lead within sport and give something great back to communities and rugby followers around the world."
Two matches between Kiwi rivals each weekend — with a winner declared after the 20 matches — will be welcomed, but Robinson quickly warned Super Rugby Aotearoa would far from solve the financial crisis facing the game.
NZR is projecting a 70 per cent drop in revenue, and potential losses in the tens of millions largely due to the lack of All Blacks tests.
"It will be helpful to the extent that it will begin to drive some revenue back into the game but we've got a long, long way to go against some of the facts described earlier in the year as a result of Covid-19.
"We'll work with all entities within rugby to ensure we can get through this year and the pandemic provided they're taking prudent steps to be reasonable around their cost controls.
"We're following their financial projections closely and working with them to make sure they can try and get through this."
Robinson was reluctant to release further details of the Super Rugby derby competition such as whether teams would use their regular stadiums, or when matches will be played, but it is believed Saturday night and Sunday afternoon are the favoured time slots for broadcast partner Sky Television.
"It's too early in terms of this competition to comment on whether we could have crowds at games. I don't know for sure but realistically at this stage we might be looking towards later in the year."
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Other new challenges exist, too. World Rugby estimates 167 people — from teams to medical staff, broadcast officials, coaches, referees — are required to stage a test match.
Initially at least, Super Rugby games here must be organised with 100 or fewer people at the venues.
"They'll have to work within those restrictions and they'll determine that with stadiums, their staff and teams."
Robinson was similarly cautious about the speculated transtasman bubble opening the door to the All Blacks and Wallabies contesting the Bledisloe Cup in the future.
"It's positive those things are being discussed — the reality is there's still a long way to go. We'll remain close with the Government, health officials and our specialists in this area and watch it very closely.
"We'd love to play some international rugby. We've made no secret that is where we derive a large share of our income from so that will be important. If not, we have to keep working through the plans we have in terms of responding to Covid-19 and make the best of the domestic series we have."