Rugby: Contracted NZ Rugby players may need second career, says NZRPA boss Rob Nichol

New Zealand's top rugby players are being warned to brace for a very different future, as the crippling effects of COVID-19 continue to ravage the national game.

Newshub can reveal players are being told to prepare for the scenario of working another job, alongside their playing commitments, as the financial strain of coronavirus continues to be felt.

NZ Rugby has long vowed to fight back, while COVID-19 continues to cripple the sporting world, but the players association warns the current crisis could set the game back years.

"Maybe they're going to have to step away from rugby," said NZRPA boss Rob Nichol.

"Maybe rugby does change shape a little bit, and they're going to have to play a bit more semi-professional and have a career in parallel to professional rugby.

"It may well be that, over the next 18 months to two years, a number of players are going to find themselves having to fall back on that kind of work and actually maybe step away from rugby."

Hopefully, sacrifices made by the game's elite will help protect the more vulnerable at the bottom - players on lower, mainly provincial contracts, whose futures are equally as murky.

"It is absolutely quite tangible that a number of our players may end up having to go to a career outside of rugby for a period of time," said Nichol.

Players will be taking pay cuts, but those won't be determined by a set percentage.

Under the current arrangement, 36 percent of NZR revenue goes to the players.

But with income set to fall dramatically, that slice of the pie could fall with it, meaning less money for players.

"At the end of the day, it is making a sacrifice," said All Blacks midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown. "But if it's for the game we love, then we'll do anything."

Damian McKenzie said recent events have been a career "reality check".
Damian McKenzie said recent events have been a career "reality check". Photo credit: Getty

For our top players, the uncertain future is a reality check and has forced them to consider the bigger picture.

"It definitely puts it into perspective about our careers post-rugby, so now is a good chance to have a think about that sort of stuff," said All Blacks utility back Damian McKenzie.

While what lies ahead is unclear, NZR remains adamant the game still has a future.

"Rugby will bounce back," Robinson insisted. "It's part of the DNA of this country."

But it may just look very different when it does.

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