New Zealand Rugby boss Mark Robinson has confirmed his organisation will ask for financial assistance from the Government as the Covid-19 crisis worsens here.
With the coronavirus alert level ramping up from level two to three today and moving to level four from midnight Wednesday, the already tenuous Super Rugby replacement competition has been put on indefinite hold, putting further economic pressure on NZ Rugby.
The confirmation today from finance minister Grant Robertson that the Covid-19 financial relief package would be extended to incorporated societies means NZ Rugby will be eligible for a payout but Robinson said tonight what that looked like remained to be seen.
• Coronavirus: All rugby in New Zealand suspended for foreseeable future
• Coronavirus: All club and community rugby postponed until April 18
• Rugby league: NRL 2020 season to continue despite coronavirus, Australia gobsmacked
• Future of 2020 Super Rugby season hangs by thread following suspension
He said NZ Rugby would need another week to gather information and meet with stakeholders, adding: "At some stage, yes, we will be having a conversation about what the possibilities are and what our situation looks like."
Robinson added: "It's an incredibly challenging situation for everyone around the country and we understand the gravity of what the Government has announced today. It impacts on everyone across New Zealand."
But while Robinson said there was uncertainty in the short-term, he was confident the long-term future of the game in New Zealand was assured. All rugby in the country has been put on hold, but Robinson said: "We remain optimistic. We know we're going to pull out of this as a game and as a country, it's just a matter of when.
"That's when challenges like things like anxiety and tension build don't they, when uncertainty builds. We're going to take another week or perhaps a fraction longer and then we're going to start being more definitive around what the near future and immediate-term future looks like. But we're under no doubt that the long-term future of the game will sustain this."
Robinson added that he had been in contact with Wales chief executive Martyn Phillips this morning and at this stage the two July tests between the All Blacks and Wales in New Zealand were still on. The All Blacks are also due to play at test against Scotland in July.
Robinson said Phillips assured him the Wales Rugby Union would take guidance from the New Zealand Government and NZ Rugby over whether or not to tour. The coronavirus situation in the United Kingdom is far more bleak than in New Zealand, where at the time of writing there have been 102 confirmed cases.
It appears, however, that it's only a matter of time before those three fixtures are also cancelled.
With the Crusaders, Chiefs and Highlanders already in self isolation due to recent overseas travel, and the Blues players told to stay away from their Alexandra Park headquarters, an attempt to salvage something from the wreckage of the Super Rugby season was always a slim hope, especially after Australian rugby this morning postponed their equivalent competition.
"We were closely watching what was happening in Australia as well so I think if you feed in all of those inputs… it meant we were in a position to make the right decision and when the announcement came through obviously it all became pretty straightforward," Robinson said.
He added that he had continued to work closely with the NZ Rugby Players' Association.
When asked about a commitment to keep paying New Zealand's Super Rugby players their current salaries, Robinson said: "We will need a little more time to work through that. We've had a very constructive dialogue, it's only just kicked off and we'll continue to work through that."
Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall said he was uneasy about the possibility of playing during a pandemic. "Don't get us wrong, we'd love to be out there," he told the Radio Sport Breakfast Show. "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."