Rugby internationals to be played in front of capacity crowds - but only in New Zealand
Both Bledisloe Cup matches between New Zealand and Australia this month will be played in full stadiums after lockdown restrictions in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, were relaxed on Monday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced Auckland will join the rest of New Zealand at Alert Level One from Wednesday, meaning the first Test at Eden Park on 18 October can be played in front of fans.
Wellington, which already is at Level 1, likely will have a capacity crowd on Sunday for the opening match of the series, the first Test for both national teams since the coronavirus pandemic began.
New Zealand were due to play in Scotland this autumn as part of the November Test series but the match at BT Murrayfield was cancelled due to travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Fans have been absent from Scottish rugby since the sport emerged from lockdown, apart from the Edinburgh v Glasgow Warriors match on 28 August which was used as a test event, with 700 supporters in attendance at 67,000-capacity Murrayfield.
The Scottish Government is not willing to sanction more test events at present due to the upsurge in Covid cases.
In New Zealand, the figures are more encouraging, although Auckland has been at a higher alert level than the rest of the country for several weeks because of a small community outbreak of Covid-19.
"Auckland fans missed out on both the North versus South match last month and the Blues versus Crusaders match so this is positive news that they will be able to enjoy test match rugby," New Zealand Rugby spokesman Chris Lendrum said.
"With only two opportunities to watch the All Blacks play in New Zealand this year, and both matches being on Sunday afternoons, we are sure fans will enjoy both occasions."
Tickets for the Auckland match will go on sale Tuesday.
"There is a real buzz growing in Wellington and around the country as the home Bledisloe Cup series is about to get underway," Lendrum said. "Just under 28,000 tickets have sold for Sunday so we encourage fans to make sure they get in quick."
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