Super Rugby Aupiki: COVID-19 forces cancellation of women's competition opener between Hurricanes Poua, Blues

Super Rugby Aupiki's COVID-19 outbreak has forced the cancellation of the rescheduled opening game of the ill-fated women's competition between Hurricanes Poua and the Blues on Thursday.

Last week's opening round was delayed, when the coronavirus sidelined the Blues squad, then a planned 'game of three halves' exhibition match was undermined by the Poua's withdrawal.

The planned four-week competition was condensed to three, with no playoffs or grand final, and winners determined purely by wins, losses and bonus points.

Now, the Poua v Blues encounter at Hamilton has been lost altogether, with competition points shared between the two teams.

"Some [players] didn't go, some stayed at their houses and some are isolating in Taupo," explains Hurricanes chief executive Avan Lee. "We do have COVID in the men's side as well.

"It will cause us some angst, but it's nothing like the Poua situation."

Lee hints the second match against the Chiefs on March 15 may also be at risk, given return-to-protocols for players, after their initial isolation period.

"That's something that's worked out between the coach and the trainers," he says. "You've got to put the health and safety of the athlete first, and you can't be in your room for 10 days and then run out onto a rugby field.

"We've just got to manage that, but the experts will do that for us."

Super Rugby Aupiki is already coming down to last team standing, with Chiefs Manawa and South Island representatives Matatū early contenders.

"This is obviously not how we wanted to see the opening day of Super Rugby Aupiki play out, but player wellbeing is the No.1 priority, so while it was a tough decision for the Hurricanes, it was a necessary one," says NZ Rugby professional rugby and performance general manager Chris Lendrum.

"Our thoughts and support are with the Poua players and management in this tough time."