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Men's Rugby Union NZ Rugby chief fears for the future of the sport

NEW ZEALAND Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson says the sport is “fighting for survival” as competitions at all levels are shuttered during the coronavirus pandemic.

Robinson told Sky Sport’s The Breakdown that he can’t say when professional rugby might resume in New Zealand and in what form, whether it would be the five-nation Super Rugby tournament or the domestic Mitre 10 Cup.

Rugby is New Zealand’s national sport and the All Blacks, the national men’s team, are one of the country’s most recognisable brands.

The continuing suspension of competitions was fully testing rugby’s resilience, Robinson said.

“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.”

Robinson said he had taken part in a conference call with World Rugby on Tuesday but wasn’t able to say whether July test matches will take place.

World Rugby is “in a similar mode to what we all are at the moment, trying to understand a whole range of different scenarios,” he said. “At the moment the dialogue looks very positive and constructive but, like a lot conversations, we need a bit more time to play out what this might look like.

“A hell of a lot of work is going on in the background.”

New Zealand Rugby has indicated that it might be forced to call for government assistance if the shutdown persists and further strains its finances. The organisation had already taken steps to cut expenditure but hadn’t yet moved to cut pay to top players.

“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.

“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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