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NZR announce more changes for Super Rugby scheduling

By Sam Smith
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Just a day after confirming that the six New Zealand-based franchises would play the first half of the Super Rugby Pacific season in Invercargill and Queenstown, New Zealand Rugby have announced another change for the competition which kicks off in two weeks’ time.

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While day matches in Queenstown will go ahead as scheduled, night games will now be played undercover at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, instead of Invercargill’s Rugby Park.

“After further conversations between the teams and NZR, it was agreed the facilities at Forysth Barr, including the roof, made it the team’s favoured option for night matches,” a statement from NZR said on the matter.

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Behind the scenes of Italy’s clash with the All Blacks.
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Behind the scenes of Italy’s clash with the All Blacks.

“The move will add some extra travel time for the teams playing in Dunedin, as they will be required to drive back to their Queenstown bubbles after each match.”

Forsyth Barr is widely considered one of the best stadiums in New Zealand thanks to its covered roof, which typically facilitates high-paced contests that are as enjoyable for fans to watch as they are for players to take part in.

In an unofficial poll of NZ Super Rugby players conducted in 2020, Forsyth Barr was far and away voted the best stadium in New Zealand, with 61 per cent of responders labelling it their favourite ground to play at.

While hosting night matches in Invercargill would have been a boon for the people of Southland, who have seen precious little Super Rugby action over the past five years, the move will likely allow for better quality rugby.

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The Blues, Hurricanes, Moana Pasifika, and Chiefs will fly to Queenstown on charter flights this weekend, while the Crusaders and Highlanders will bus south following their Farmlands Cup clash in Oamaru on Friday.

“Under current Covid-19 regulations it would only take one positive case entering a squad environment to shut down an entire squad for 10 days,” NZR general manager of professional rugby Chris Lendrum said when the tournament bubble was first announced.

“The knock-on effect for the rest of the competition would be the postponement or cancellation of matches.

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“By moving the teams to a secure hub, we believe we have a good chance of preventing a Covid-19 infection, or close contact event, side-lining one of our teams for a prolonged period.

“The plan is currently for the teams to move to Queenstown early next week and remain in Queenstown for the opening three weeks of the competition.”

Super Rugby Pacific kicks off on February 18 with Moana Pasifika taking on the Blues.

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