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Sport

Rugby: Confusion over North-South game continues over COVID restrictions

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Confusion continues to surround the state of New Zealand’s North-South rugby match next week with the country’s Health Minister yet to approve exemptions for Auckland-based players to leave the locked down city.

New Zealand’s government last week imposed a lockdown of Auckland and social distancing restrictions for the rest of the country after a re-emergence of the novel coronavirus in the country’s largest city.

The match is scheduled for Aug. 29 at Eden Park in Auckland, but New Zealand Rugby (NZR) have said the game will take place in Wellington if the restrictions are not lifted.

The two squads, named on Tuesday by All Blacks coach Ian Foster, are scheduled to assemble in Wellington next Monday but Health Minister Chris Hipkins said that 13 Auckland-based players had yet to receive approval to leave.

“I would think either myself or the Director General of Health would be involved in that process and as far as I’m aware neither of us have been,” Hipkins told Radio New Zealand.

“It is unlikely,” Hipkins added when asked if he would grant the players the exemption to leave Auckland.

“We are being very limited in the exemptions we are giving. For example even members of parliament aren’t even coming to Wellington while parliament is sitting.

“We are saying to people, please do your bit and stay in Auckland.”

NZR said earlier this week they were working closely with the government on the match, which is between composite sides representing the two main islands of the country.

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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