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New Zealand could become the world’s first major rugby nation to resume playing at an elite level with authorities set to approve the restart of professional sport as early as next week.

New Zealand's Sport and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson says professional sports will be able to resume domestically if the country lowers its COVID-19 restrictions on Monday.

"Moving to Alert Level 2 continues to expand the opportunities for sport and recreation and reintroduces the opportunity for competitive sport - both at a local and professional level," said Robertson.

"Obviously, the paramount concern is that a return to competitive sport is done safely."

New Zealand Rugby has revealed plans for 10 rounds of matches between their Super Rugby teams once coronavirus restrictions are eased.

The Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes would play each other home and away over 10 weeks, with two matches each weekend. All matches would be played in closed stadiums.

NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said: "Kiwi rugby fans love the local Super Rugby derbies, and they will now have 10 consecutive rounds to enjoy."

Robinson added that a decision on whether New Zealand could host scheduled Tests in July against Wales and Scotland would be made within the next two weeks.

 

Meanwhile, Rugby Australia has submitted plans for the return of the professional game to the government and hopes to get players back in training next month for matches in July.

Interim chief executive Rob Clarke, who was appointed as a temporary replacement for Raelene Castle, says his first priority is to get some kind of professional competition back up and running.

Clarke said: "There's a lot to be done, the game has gone through a very, very challenging period.

"The first item on the agenda is to get ourselves playing rugby around the country again.

"At a professional level, our plans have been submitted to the government for approval and if restrictions are lifted, as we hope they will be in the next week or so, we would aim to be playing in July with training starting in June."

Clarke also said plans to resume would have to be in line with the restrictions that might still be in place in Australia.


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