COVID-19 plagues New Zealand sport

New Zealand sport continues to be hurt by the country’s stiff COVID-19 border rules which could also seriously impact the Women’s ODI Cricket World Cup in March.

New Zealand’s border remains closed to foreigners unless they have a rare government-issued exemption, and even then, all visitors must complete 10 days in quarantine.

That has made home games for Kiwi clubs in Australian competitions impossible, effectively stationing teams including the A-League’s Wellington Phoenix, the NBL’s Breakers and the NRL’s Warriors permanently in Australia.

But the rules, in place to keep COVID-19 at low levels in the community, also blunt the ability of national teams to travel.

The U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup will begin in the West Indies without New Zealand because of the tight border controls.

The Silver Ferns were forced to abandon last October’s Constellation Cup but have left NZ to play in a Quad Series against England, Australia and South Africa in London this week.

And on Friday, the All Blacks and Black Ferns confirmed they won’t travel to Spain for this month’s World Rugby Sevens rounds in Seville and Malaga.

New Zealand Rugby said the government’s shift to delay border openings made travelling impossible, and they would look to play domestic matches in the buildup to major tournaments later this year.

“It’s frustrating not being able to travel at the moment but that is out of our control,” All Blacks Sevens coach Craig Laidlaw said.

“What we can control is what we do here each day, the players have come back in great spirits and now it’s time to crack on, we’ll be ready for whenever the borders open and we can travel.”

In March, New Zealand will host the first of three high-profile women’s World Cups set for the next 18 months.

The 50-over cricket tournament precedes the rugby union World Cup in October and the football World Cup, co-hosted with Australia, next winter.

The current border rules stop foreign fans, as well as media, from entering New Zealand.

“While we’d love to have welcomed international fans, ticket sales are strong and we have plans in place to welcome fans of all teams to fill our grounds and show their support,” said ICC tournament chief executive Andrea Nelson.

The border rules could also see cricketers miss the showpiece event.

The current plan is for squads to enter New Zealand together as one group, with each participating nation allowed groups of up to 30 players and support staff.

However, players, coaches or staff who happen to catch COVID-19 in the lead-up to travel would be barred from entry.

It is understood tournament organisers are looking to make back-up arrangements to ensure this doesn’t end the World Cup dreams of those attending the showpiece event.

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