New Zealand Rugby has labelled as “unacceptable” the actions of a group of Canterbury Crusaders players who breached the country’s strict coronavirus lockdown rules on Monday by training together in a local park.
The players, including All Blacks fly-half Richie Mo’unga, were filmed informally training in Christchurch where they were shown keeping their distance but passing and kicking a ball between each other.
New Zealand’s nationwide lockdown restricts people from leaving their homes unless it is for essential services like groceries. They can exercise as individuals or with people in the same lockdown ‘bubble’.
“Some of the Crusaders players have not followed these rules and that is unacceptable,” NZR Chief executive Mark Robinson said in comments published by the New Zealand Herald on Tuesday. "We have reminded everyone involved in rugby that they must abide by the New Zealand government COVID-19 guidelines and this situation must not happen again.”
The Crusaders, the 10-times Super Rugby champions, downplayed the breach late on Monday, but the team’s Chief Executive Colin Mansbridge said they had reminded the players of their responsibilities.
“All of the players involved have acknowledged they made a mistake by sharing equipment,” Mansbridge said in a statement. “This is a timely and valuable lesson for all. We have reiterated the guidelines to both the group directly involved, and our wider Crusaders squad to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
The team said the players, two separate groups of flatmates, all lived within walking distance of the park and it was coincidental they were exercising at the same time.
“The club is confident this was not an organised training session among the group,” the statement said. “While these players made a conscious effort to observe physical distancing, they did share equipment by throwing and kicking a rugby ball among themselves.”