New Zealand Rugby is 'fighting for survival' amid shutdown over coronavirus, official says

A New Zealand Rugby official lamented that the sport is “fighting for survival” as matches across all levels have been shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Chief executive Mark Robinson told Sky Sport New Zealand's "The Breakdown" on Tuesday that he was unsure whether rugby, the country’s national sport, will return and in what form. The All Blacks, the national men’s team, is one of the most recognizable squads in the sport.

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“We’re fighting for sport’s survival in New Zealand around rugby, and if you can’t get motivated by that challenge and the opportunity that sits beyond that then we’ll never be motivated,” Robinson said. “It’s creating anxiety in our game at all levels, from our clubs and community level and into our professional ranks.

“We’ve just got to take a little more time to understand the information we have to gather and then we’ll be in a position hopefully early next week to start making some decisions and giving a bit more direction and certainty to people.”

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Robinson said he was on a conference call with World Rugby but wasn’t able to say if test matches scheduled for July would take place.

New Zealand Rugby indicated it might need government assistance as the shutdown put a strain on the organization’s finances.

“The government has done an amazing job in showing leadership,” Robinson said. “In a way that has left us with the best opportunity to get on the field earlier.

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“If we’re looking at a short turnaround to get through this and past COVID-19, then it presents a great opportunity to be playing rugby all the more earlier.”

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The New Zealand Rugby League called off matches last week until at least May 2. The league’s CEO asked fans to “stay positive” during the outbreak.