A new directive from New Zealand Rugby Union will require all eligible players, referees, coaches, management and support staff of 15-a-side community competitions to produce vaccine passports.
The move will come into effect in the 2022 season, with NZR saying the government requirement for vaccine passports at events where more than 25 people are present, essentially forced its hand.
“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,” general manager community rugby Steve Lancaster says.
NZRU bosses say after consultation, the decision is supported by all 26 provincial Unions.
“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 are unexpected moves between traffic light settings in 2022,” Lancaster says.
The union says today’s announcement is about preparing the community for the 2022 season. Increasing vaccination rates in rugby remains a key priority and it is partnering with health agencies to support vaccination uptake.
'National game brings people together'
“NZR continues to support the rugby community getting vaccinated as the best way to protect everyone against Covid-19,” It says.
An NZR representative told Te Ao Māori News the union doesn't have any metrics on how many people will be affected by the mandate, but that would be 'worked through' in the coming months.
“We’re also mindful that rugby is our national game, it brings people together and remains a huge part of our communities,” Lancaster says.
“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 guidelines and comply with the Government’s framework. There is a range of options available - like sevens and 10s.”
As with all large events, the framework also applies to rugby spectators and NZR says it will work with clubs and schools to ensure it’s adhered to.
For events involving those ineligible for vaccination, such as Small Blacks rugby and players aged five to 11 years, NZR says it will work with the Ministry of Health and provide guidance on protocols for those comps early next year.
NZR says government and airline restrictions mean vaccination has been required for those travelling with the All Blacks, Black Ferns and other professional squads.