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June 13 return for Club rugby is possible

The first whistle of Tasman's rugby restart is still a month away but a game plan for the 2020 season is about to be drawn up.

The coronavirus lockdown forced the suspension of rugby at all levels in March, with players and administrators left uncertain over when they could return to the paddock.

However, with the possibility of level three restrictions being lifted in the coming days, discussions around the shape of the remaining season are set to begin.

Tasman Rugby Union chief executive Tony Lewis said work was underway to establish return to play guidelines and event management at the region's grounds, while working with clubs to "work out the best systems" following health guidelines for level two.

A meeting to discuss pans for the season will take place on Tuesday night, with an eye to returning to play by June 13 for premier and possibly Division Two club rugby.

Test games were likely to be played on June 6 at Nelson's Trafalgar Park and Blenheim's Lansdowne Park to ensure appropriate social distance and event protocols were in place.

"The first thing is to make sure clubs agree on everything — once we've worked out what it'll look like then it may be for the first couple of weeks that we centralise games. 

"That may mean in premier rugby that we play everything at either Trafalgar Park, Moutere and Lansdowne in Blenheim and Sportspark Motueka, so we can keep tabs on who comes in and out.

"However, our main goal for now is getting all those procedures in place."

Among the other topics at the meeting will be whether to proceed with the combined Tasman Trophy competition or run separate competitions for the Nelson Bays and Marlborough sub-unions.

Lewis said it was crucial that any decisions made were "purely club-driven."

Survey data taken from players and coaches was also being collated and the results of this information would be presented at the meeting.

Regarding junior and age grade rugby, Lewis said it was likely that the union would follow NZ Secondary Schools' advice of holding off until the start of term three in mid-July and playing through to the school holidays.

"Again, we'll take that to our stakeholders and see what the thoughts are.

"I think everyone is just looking forward to getting back playing rugby, you've got the Super and provincial rugby ahead but the thing I'm looking forward to the most is seeing the kids out there again, because that's where our game starts."

As for provincial rugby, Lewis said he was anticipating the Mitre 10 Cup would start a month later than usual.

Tony Lewis, Tasman Rugby Union chief executive is confident of seeing a solid amount of junior, club and provincial rugby in the top of the south this year.
Tony Lewis, Tasman Rugby Union chief executive is confident of seeing a solid amount of junior, club and provincial rugby in the top of the south this year.

"Hopefully by then we'll have our crowds back and we can connect again."

Lewis said the potential overlap of schedule may allow a number of Mako to turn out for their clubs.

"In a perfect world we'd like the club competition to push deep into the Mitre 10 Cup season as we can."

The likelihood of a 2020 provincial competition featuring more All Blacks - should the international season be canned - was a further positive for Lewis.

"Any time there's an All Black playing on Trafalgar Park or Lansdowne is exciting - I can remember when we would expect 5000 to show up for a game against Counties and then Sonny Bill [Williams] turned out for them and we got 10,000 and ran out of beer before kick-off."