New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson has revealed the organisation was not consulted by provincial unions who sought to get exemptions for players based in Auckland for the resumption of the NPC this weekend.
Six players across five NPC squads were removed after New Zealand Rugby was alerted to errors in their applications for a Covid-19 travel exemption.
The six players travelled separately from Auckland to Wellington, Hawke's Bay, Manawatū, Bay of Plenty and Northland to join their NPC squads over the past six to 10 days after being granted a travel exemption via an online application process managed by their provincial unions.
Robinson said NZR was unaware the provincial unions were applying to have the players granted travel exemptions, but the organisation looked into the situation closely when members of NZR got word of it. He admitted it was a bad look for the game and it was a frustrating position to be in.
"If we had been made aware that this sort of thing was happening, we certainly would have [taken the lead on the process]," Robinson said.
"Ideally, in any of these situations, it would be nice to be communicated with and made aware of the situation.
"There's been lots of conversations in the last three days. I think we've certainly communicated back to our provincial unions – both on various calls and more formally in writing – that this is a critical time for our country and we have worked really, really hard with the Government and all the associated agencies to be absolutely committed to all the health protocols associated with Covid, and that is the expectation of all our stakeholders as well.
"We understand this is an unfortunate situation and it's disappointing it's happened, but we nevertheless communicated that we have really high expectations around this in terms of continuing to work with the Government."
Robinson said he was unsure of whether the provincial unions made the same or different errors in their applications for travel exemptions, but NZR have been doing everything they could to remedy the situation since finding out about it.
After being alerted to the situation by NZR, the Government has advised that the travel exemptions for the players have been revoked. NZR is working to get those six players back to Auckland.
All six players have had at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, with four of them fully vaccinated, and all but one of them had returned a negative test in the past 10 days, with the other having previously tested negative and in the process of being tested again.
Robinson said he believed there were no concerns of the players carrying and having spread the virus amongst their teammates, and there were no thoughts of having to cancel this weekend's NPC games because of it.