Despite recording a composed 31-16 win over the Hurricanes in the opening round of Super Rugby Aotearoa for 2021, the news on Saturday evening wasn’t all positive for the victors.
A re-emergence of COVID-19 in the community has resulted in a one-week lockdown for Auckland – which would cause significant problems for the Super Rugby franchise, were they to return north.
Coach Leon MacDonald has confirmed that the Blues will be assessing their options moving forward and are unlikely to return home.
“The decision is being made right as we speak,” he told media following the win. “Our manager and the CEO will get together and talk to NZ Rugby and formulate a plan. The players are ready and expecting it.”
While the Blues have a bye this weekend, MacDonald suggested that a week away from training would have major repercussions for the team moving forward. The normally Auckland-based team understandably looked rusty in their first-up encounter with the Hurricanes and disruptions to the training regime would put the side on the back foot.
“We’ll have to find a new home that can house us and give us what we need to train. We’ll look at all our options, whether we head to Hamilton or stay in Wellington, I’m not sure yet. We’ll look at a place that can become our home for the short term.”
“They [players] definitely are [on board]. With the first lockdown a few weeks ago we were ready to go if we were able to, and now we’re out of the city it makes sense that we keep alive in the competition.
“We need to keep training and under level 3, we won’t be able to train. If we have to do a whole week sitting in our houses then that’s going to put us behind the eight-ball.”
The Blues are next set to play the Highlanders on March 14 in Auckland. At this stage, there’s every reason to believe that game can proceed as scheduled.
Should the lockdown restrictions be lifted by next week then a full crowd would also be allowed to attend the game.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 27, 2021
Hurricanes CEO Avon Lee passed his commiserations onto the Blues following Saturday evening’s game and offered to support the team in any way possible.
“We know it’s tough for them and their families,” Lee said. I’ve already spoken to a couple of them and said ‘Whatever you need, if we can help we will’. I don’t know what that looks like but it makes it a pretty tough situation for them. They’ve got a bye this week which is a bit of a blessing.
“I’m sure they could [base themselves in Wellington]. We wouldn’t have the capacity for them at our place [training base] but there’s plenty of opportunity here. I know they were looking at Cambridge a couple of weeks ago so I’m not sure what’s in their thinking but they are considering staying. It’s a pretty big upheaval for them.”
The Blues sit atop the Super Rugby Aotearoa standings following one round of action. The Crusaders, who bested the Highlander 26-13 on Friday, sit just behind the Blues on points difference.
RugbyPass subscribers who hold a Super Rugby Aotearoa pass are able to watch full replays of both this weekend’s games.
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