NZ Herald

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New Zealand Rugby have labelled a training session made up of Crusaders players – where they broke COVID-19 lockdown rules – as “unacceptable”.

All Blacks first-five Richie Mo’unga was filmed training with Crusaders teammates near their team base in Christchurch yesterday.

A witness told Newshub it was obvious the group of Crusaders knew each other as they proceeded to pass and kick the ball between them at a park.

The Crusaders confirmed to Newshub that Mo’unga was one of the players, from three separate bubbles, who was involved.

NZR chief executive Mark Robinson condemned the players for not following the rules.

“The lockdown rules are very simple – if you exercise, it must be solitary or with those you live with,” said Robinson.

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“Some of the Crusaders players have not followed these rules and that is unacceptable. 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.”

A Crusaders statement released yesterday downplayed the breach by players, admitting a mistake was made.

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“Management have spoken with the players involved, all of whom live within walking distance of Malvern Park. The club is confident this was not an organised training session among the group, but rather one group of flatmates training in their ‘bubble’ who were coincidentally joined by a second group,” the statement said.

“The guidelines from the New Zealand Government are clear, and all of the players involved have acknowledged they made a mistake by sharing equipment,” Mansbridge said in the statement.

“We have reiterated the guidelines to both the group directly involved, and our wider Crusaders squad to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

“In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is a time when our community needs to work together and look after one another, and our players are social leaders in that regard.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urged Kiwis on the weekend to continue to follow the level 4 rules and said those that continued to flout them were “idiots”.

Observing the trajectories overseas had helped the Government to decide to “go hard and go early”, Ardern said.

“Be proud of your efforts that you have all made. It is making a difference. Now is the time though to remain focused, to not let up.

“It improves our chances of getting out of this alert level.”

This article first appeared on nzherald.co.nz and is republished with permission.

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