Tamworth (Australia) (AFP)

"Our sport is playing big," warned the coach of the New Zealand Warriors' XIII rugby team on Monday, urging his players to comply with the regulations to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

While the National Rugby League (NRL), the very popular Australian rugby league, hopes to resume in late May, the New Zealand Warriors arrived in Australia on Sunday in the town of Tamworth (New South Wales), about five hours drive from Sydney.

The only non-Australian team among the sixteen who play in the NRL will spend 14 days in quarantine in this city, before the competition resumes on May 28.

"Our sport is playing big, we are not only talking about our team, but we are also talking about our championship," explained Stephen Kearney during a press conference.

"You have to do the right things, it is not that complicated, but you have to be smart and do the right things to allow our sport to resume," he added.

"When we look at what is going on around the world, I don't think there will be a competition that will resume as soon as ours, we will be the first. So we have a huge responsibility as such and we made it clear to our players this (Monday) morning, "said the Warriors coach.

On Saturday, Australian authorities granted 36 Warriors players and staff a rare departure from the existing ban on international arrivals, amid slowing new cases of Covid-19 in Australia and New Zealand.

The NRL season was suspended on March 24 after only two days, Canberra having banned all non-essential gatherings to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

According to plans developed by the league and its broadcast partners this week, the regular season will go from 25 to 20 days - including the two already played - with a series of four-week play-offs ending in a grand finale October 25.

© 2020 AFP