13 Dec 2021

Rugby players will need vaccination passes for club games

5:12 pm on 13 December 2021

Club and college rugby players will need a Covid vaccination certificate to play in competitions from next year.

Club rugby

Club rugby. Photo: © Photosport Ltd 2010 www.photosport.nz

The directive was announced by New Zealand Rugby today.

Under the Government and Sport New Zealand's Covid-19 Protection Framework, gatherings in the Red traffic light setting which do not use Covid-19 Vaccination Certificates are limited to 25 people.

In the Red setting, 15-a-side rugby competitions would be unable to proceed without the use of Covid vaccination certificates due to the restriction on numbers.

The decision is supported by the 26 Provincial Unions and is intended to ensure 15-a-side community rugby competitions can continue without disruption in all three traffic light settings.

Further Covid-19 guidance will be issued by NZR early next year, including for Small Blacks rugby and for players aged five to 11 years.

Papatoetoe's Mau Joyana Pasikala  Premier Womens' rugby College Rifles v Papatoetoe, 2021.

Papatoetoe v College Rifles, 2021. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Increased vaccination rates in the rugby community remains a key priority and NZR is actively seeking to partner with health agencies ahead of the 2022 season to support vaccination uptake.

NZR General Manager Community Rugby Steve Lancaster said the decision provided the rugby community with a level of certainty ahead of the 2022 season.

"We've taken the time to review the Government and Sport New Zealand's guidance and what's clear is that vaccine certificates will be needed for fifteen-a-side competitions to play with minimal disruption.

"Over the past couple of seasons the rugby community has dealt with a lot of challenges and cancellations. This decision gives some early certainty and will reduce the impact on teenage and senior competitions when there's unexpected moves between traffic light settings in 2022."

Ponsonby celebrate beating Marist in Auckland club rugby's 2019 Gallaher Shield final.

Ponsonby club celebrate a win. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Lancaster said both NZR and the Provincial Unions were committed to providing rugby for all New Zealanders, in compliance with the Covid-19 Protection Framework.

"New Zealand Rugby continues to support the rugby community getting vaccinated as the best way to protect everyone against Covid-19. But we're also mindful that rugby is our national game, it brings people together and remains a huge part of our communities.

"We want to see rugby available to all New Zealanders so we'll work with the Provincial Unions to provide other rugby offerings that follow the health and safety guidance and comply with the Government's framework. There's a range of options available - like sevens and 10s - that work within traffic light settings and we'll know more about what that looks like early next year."

Whanganui Rugby Union chief executive officer Bridget Belsham said she did not want the decision to segregate the rugby community.

They had turned the comments off when they put the announcement on social media.

"Rugby improves lives, it's great for physical and mental health so we're wanting to make sure that we are including those people that are opting not to get vaccinated for their own personal reasons. So coming out now before Christmas is giving us an opportunity to consult with our stakeholders and our community around how that is going to effect what we normally do," Belsham said.

Who will police whether teams are playing by the rules was not yet set in stone.

But Lancaster said there was a plan to record vaccination status in the registration system but clubs would take on some of the responsibilities as event hosts under the Covid-19 Framework.

"Things like scanning the Covid app to ensure you're contact traced, registrations processes that we will look at in the new year to capture records for Covid Vaccination Certificates, there's a whole lot of stuff that us yet to be applied but in short it is going to be a matter of collective responsibility to ensure we get it right."

Gordon Noble-Campbell from the New Zealand Amateur Sport Association praised NZR's stance but could also see where discussions still needed to be had.

"Lets assume a referees association decides that all of its referees need to be vaccinated then I guess it'll be a question of which referees might want to referee a fixture for non-vaccinated players," Noble-Campbell said.

He said clubs would also have to start thinking about whether vaccinated and unvaccinated players could train at the same time.

The club rugby season is still months away so players, referees and administrators have plenty to think about as pre-season rolls around.

The Covid-19 Protection Framework guidelines for sport and recreation gatherings apply to the players, referees, coaches, management and support staff.

The framework also applies to spectators and separate guidance will follow from NZR for clubs and schools to implement these.

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