A change of date rather than a change of venue is now the more likely fate of the proposed North Island versus South Island match.
The Herald understands that playing the game at Eden Park on September 5 is now the preferred contingency, should the Government keep Auckland at alert level 3 and prevent Blues players from travelling to Wellington on Monday.
Delaying the game by one week is seen as more practical and beneficial than trying to shift the venue from Eden Park to Sky Stadium as has been proposed.
The game was thrown into jeopardy as a result of the sudden switch to level 3 in Auckland last week, and level 2 in the rest of the country.
Cabinet is expected to review the decision on the current settings – which sees Auckland at alert level 3 and the rest of the country at alert level 2 until at least 11.59pm on Wednesday (August 26) – tomorrow, with an announcement on Monday.
With the harsher lockdown likely to last until at least next Thursday, it was no longer possible for the two teams to assemble in Auckland this upcoming Monday as planned.
Even if Auckland shifts to level 2 on Thursday, that wouldn’t be enough time for the two squads to prepare and it would still mean that the game would have to be played behind closed doors.
Facing that scenario, New Zealand Rugby changed its plans and intends for the two squads to assemble in Wellington on Monday, train in the capital and then potentially return to Auckland to play the game at Eden Park.
But that plan was contingent on the Auckland players being granted a Government exemption to leave the city – something which many see as unlikely.
In which case, the next option would be for the two squads to assemble in Wellington and then welcome the Auckland players on Thursday, should the city’s alert level be lowered.
That’s been deemed an impractical solution and there is minimal appetite among key stakeholders to play the fixture if the 13 Auckland-based players selected are unable to take part at all.
The game is doubling as an All Blacks trial and its purpose will be limited should the Blues contingent not be involved.
As anticipation heightens for next week's #NorthvSouth clash, the prospect of Blues players taking part in the match remains unclear amid Auckland's resurgence of Covid-19 cases.https://t.co/lbj1bjZXMX
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 19, 2020
With so many unknowns and risks it is believed that unless the Government decides tomorrow that it intends to lift the level 3 lockdown earlier or is willing to grant the Auckland players travel exemptions, then it would be best to push the fixture back seven days.
If Auckland returns to level 2 next Thursday, that will be enough to allow both teams to assemble in the city on Monday, August 31 and prepare for the match on September 5.
There is no clash of events to prevent that from happening and it would also open the prospect of the game being played in front of a sold-out Eden Park if the Government is willing to return Auckland to level 1.
The tickets have all been sold so it would be feasible for the stadium to be full even if the alert level was changed just the day before.
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