The Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) has stood down its chairman Francis Kean from the World Rugby Council amid allegations of homophobia and discrimination.

An investigation into Kean, who was convicted of manslaughter in 2007, was launched by World Rugby following the claims, which came to light in the Sunday Times.

The decision means Kean's bid to join the World Rugby Executive Committee has also been withdrawn.

The FRU's place on the council will now be filled by its CEO John O'Connor.

"World Rugby notes the Fiji Rugby Union's decision to stand down Fiji Rugby Union Chairman Ratu Vilikesa Bulewa Francis Kean from the World Rugby Council, and therefore withdrawing his candidature for the World Rugby Executive Committee, following new allegations published in the UK Sunday Times," a World Rugby statement read.

"World Rugby takes all allegations of behaviour that is not in keeping with the sport’s strong and inclusive values and Bye-Laws extremely seriously.

"While it is important to stress that any allegations must be validated, following dialogue with World Rugby, the Fiji Rugby Union recognises the seriousness of the allegations made and the need for them to be fully investigated, and that it is in the best interests of the sport that Mr Kean steps down from the Council and his Executive Committee candidature be withdrawn."

The FRU seconded World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont's bid for re-election. The body insisted the FRU as a whole backed his nomination, not Kean individually.

Rugby Australia (RA) is discussing the possibility of playing a makeshift trans-Tasman competition and Bledisloe Cup series later this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Super Rugby season was suspended last month due to COVID-19 and plans for a domestic competition as part of a way to continue the campaign were put on hold.

Australia and New Zealand, however, have managed to halt the spread of coronavirus and travel conditions could eventually be eased.

After agreeing a pay cut with players on Monday, RA is eyeing a provincial competition and a 2020 Bledisloe Cup series between the Wallabies and All Blacks.

"Yeah it's certainly one of the models that we've got worked through at the moment and we remain in consistent discussions with New Zealand because obviously that makes a lot of sense," RA chief executive Raelene Castle told reporters via a conference call on Tuesday.

"The indications we're getting from government agencies is that the sequence of opening up is likely to be domestic first, then into maybe trans-Tasman and maybe Pacific, and then international.

"So we have a number of different scenarios that we are [looking at] and that's certainly one that we are in conversations with New Zealand about."

Castle added: "If the governments don't let us travel and the governments don't open international borders to allow teams to come in to this environment, we might not have any choice but to review what the structures look like [in terms of] what we deliver at the back-end of this year and then potentially what we could deliver into '21.

"So it won't be driven by what SANZAAR want to do, it will be driven by what governments allow and which countries open up their borders at what times. And certainly all of the indications that we are getting from the Australian and New Zealand governments is that they are very proud of the fact that they've managed to control this very well and limited the damage and the loss of life, and they're not willing to open that up again quickly to risk that they go backwards again.

"So that's an overlay that we as a SANZAAR community have to be dealing with and those are conversations that are actively happening."

Rugby Australia (RA) has agreed an average 60 per cent wage cut with players until September as it continues to deal with the financial ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic.

An agreement was struck following weeks of protracted talks between RA, the nation's Super Rugby teams and the Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA).

The news will affect 192 professional players in Australia and could reportedly save RA up to 83 per cent on payments between April and September.

Earlier in April, the organisation stood down 75 per cent of its staff for three months after warning 120million Australian dollars could be lost in revenue if the season was to end due to the global health crisis.

New terms will be discussed if the season resumes before September 30.

"This has not been an easy discussion, but it has been a necessary one to ensure that we are able to emerge from the other side of this crisis in the best possible position for the game to move forward. It is important to note that these measures are a stop-gap, not a full-stop," said RA chief executive Raelene Castle, who has taken a 65 per cent salary cut for six months.

"We are deep into our planning to ensure we are able to navigate our way through this and be ready for competition to resume as soon as that is possible.

“The players have been involved in this process and we look forward to continuing that work and seeing them back out on the field doing what they do best.

"The structure of our game is complex with the international models of SANZAAR, the Sevens World Series and the Olympic Games, and players in all forms of the game will be impacted differently. These differences for our athletes add complexity to the discussions and so continuing to work together is critical to getting the best outcomes for all.

"The country is missing rugby and we are all looking forward to the day that players can return to the field and fans to the stands."

RUPA CEO Justin Harrison added: "Australia's professional players will play a central role in the short–term preservation of the game by accepting a significant reduction in pay in order for necessary transformation to begin.

"The players reached a resolution with the Member Unions and Rugby Australia today.

"RUPA's members understand their part in the game's immediate future and the responsibility that goes with it. The players have voted as a block in supporting RUPA's recommendation."

Several unions have implemented measures to help cope with the financial burden caused by COVID-19, with New Zealand Rugby announcing a 50 per cent pay freeze with its players for the remainder of the year.

Last week, World Rugby announced a $100m relief fund would be made available to support struggling unions.

Australia are scheduled to face Ireland and Fiji in July, although the likelihood of those matches taking place appears slim. 

Steve Hansen has backed Warren Gatland's idea to stage a "decider" between the British and Irish Lions and New Zealand in 2021.

Gatland steered the Lions to a drawn series against Hansen's All Blacks in 2017 and will lead the team on a tour of South Africa next year.

The former Wales boss suggested a one-off match could be staged ahead of Tests against the Rugby World Cup-winning Springboks, in order to raise funds after the coronavirus pandemic.

While Hansen, who stepped down as All Blacks boss after the World Cup, stated such a game would not settle the 2017 series once and for all due to different personnel being involved, he believes it could be important to the sport's future.

"Well, it won't be a decider because it won't be the same people involved. But what he's really saying is let's have this game to try and help make some money for the game because the game is in trouble," Hansen told Wales Online.

"You have got one rugby nation, in the United States, who have gone bankrupt, we've got Australia on the brink, we know England have got a financial crisis, everybody will have because you are not getting paid the TV rights and those are what makes the game go round.

"The game is in financial crisis. People are struggling. So I think anything that allows us to create some income to support the game is important."

Hansen is now the director of rugby at Toyota Verblitz in Japan's Top League, which last month had its season cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The former All Blacks coach believes the suspension of rugby provides an opportunity to make sweeping changes for the good of the game.

"We have an opportunity now to start with a blank page because you have got everybody putting self-interest to the side," said Hansen.

"They know they could be gone if they don't do the right thing. So it's a great opportunity to bring everybody together, north, south, individual countries and do what it is right for the game. It's been a long time coming because it's been needed for quite some time.

"There has been a lot of self-interest and if we don't do the right thing we could lose the game and that would be a tragedy."

The inaugural Indian Premier League began with a bang when Brendon McCullum blasted an unbeaten 158 exactly 12 years ago.

McCullum's devastating display of hitting provided a glimpse of what was to come for the world's premier Twenty20 franchise competition.

To mark the anniversary, we take a look at some of sport's great curtain-raisers.

 

Indomitable Lions tame Maradona et al in Milan

As the defending champions, Argentina had the honour of kicking off the 1990 World Cup in Italy and were expected to encounter few difficulties against Cameroon.

The Indomitable Lions may have never won at a World Cup finals before, but 90 minutes later that had been rectified, Francois Omam-Biyik heading in a winner that was embarrassingly shovelled over the line by Nery Pumpido.

That was only half the story, though. Cameroon finished the game with nine men, Benjamin Massing following Andre Kana-Biyik in being sent off for an outrageous lunge on Claudio Caniggia that remains one of the enduring World Cup images.

Take nothing away from Cameroon, though. They went on to reach the quarter-finals - beaten by England - as the world finally took notice of African football.

 

Springboks take first step on road to glory

The honour of playing the first game at the Rugby World Cup typically goes to the hosts, and in 1995 the opening fixture pitted South Africa against reigning champions Australia in Cape Town.

The Springboks had only been permitted to return to international rugby in 1992 once apartheid was abolished, but, roared on by a partisan Newlands crowd that included future great Bryan Habana, they saw off the Wallabies 27-18.

It proved to be the catalyst for South Africa, who would go on to be crowned World Cup winners, a victory that did much to unite a nation divided for so long.

McCullum's IPL masterclass

T20 was still in its infancy in 2008 when Kolkata Knight Riders opener McCullum came to the crease, and there was little indication of what was to come when the New Zealander failed to score off his first six balls faced.

He soon got his eye in. McCullum would go on to smash 158 off 73 balls, including 13 sixes and 10 fours, as the Knight Riders cruised to a 140-run win against Royal Challengers Bangalore. It was a better start than even the IPL architects could have hoped for.

Only five men have recorded higher scores than McCullum's knock that day, but none have been as important as the display which showed the IPL was a force rather than a farce.

 

Lleyton Blewitt at Wimbledon

Lleyton Hewitt stepped onto Centre Court on June 23, 2003 as the defending Wimbledon champion to face world number 203 Ivo Karlovic.

The Australian demolished his 6ft 10ins opponent in a 19-minute first set, which he took 6-1, but Karlovic, playing in his first grand slam, flipped the script.

A 1-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 6-4 victory represented 24-year-old Karlovic's 11th Tour win as Hewitt became just the second man to lose in the first round at Wimbledon as a defending champion.

 

Patriots are Hunt-ed down in 2017

The defending Super Bowl champions have had the honour of kicking off the NFL regular season since 2004 and there was another championship banner being unveiled in Foxborough on September 7, 2017.

Pre-game talk surrounded the possibility of the New England Patriots going 19-0. The Kansas City Chiefs had other ideas, though, routing Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in their own backyard in a 42-27 success as rookie running back Kareem Hunt went off for 246 yards from scrimmage.

Belichick and Brady bounced back and New England finished 13-3 before making another Super Bowl, where Nick Foles and the 'underdog' Philadelphia Eagles lifted the Lombardi Trophy in Minnesota.

World Rugby has set up a $100m relief fund to aid unions struggling financially during the coronavirus pandemic.

The absence of any rugby union games because of the spread of COVID-19 has already had a huge impact, with USA Rugby filing for bankruptcy last month.

Rugby Australia (RA) stood down 75 per cent of its workforce for three months in March, shortly after it had revealed a provisional deficit of 9.4 million Australian dollars in 2019.

RA is discussing pay cuts for players while New Zealand Rugby has agreed a 50 per cent pay freeze with players for the remainder of 2020.

World Rugby has now pledged funds to unions across the globe, available until the action resumes, to combat what it says is rugby union's "greatest challenge".

A statement said: "The relief fund will available for unions requiring immediate emergency funding subject to appropriate criteria being met.

"It is designed to assist the maximum number of unions for the maximum amount of time while there is a rugby void. 

"For Six Nations and SANZAAR unions, the financial package will involve a combination of advances and loans, while World Rugby is also committed to supporting emerging nations and regional associations where required."

The game's governing body also revealed discussions are ongoing over a potential return date, with a "likely short-term reshaping of the international rugby calendar".

Four matches in the 2020 Six Nations were postponed when the crisis first hit Europe.

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has reached an agreement to freeze about 50 per cent of remaining forecasted player spend for 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought sport to a standstill around the world, with Super Rugby among the competitions impacted.

NZR and the New Zealand Rugby Players' Association (NZRPA) reached an agreement over player payments, including impacting Super Rugby and All Blacks players, on Thursday.

"The players are committed to playing their part in ensuring the long-term future of the sport and to ensure the game best manages the financial implications of COVID-19," NZRPA chief executive Rob Nichol said in a statement.

"In contemplating a scenario based on no professional rugby in 2020, NZR and the NZRPA together recognised the need to act now to prepare the game and the players for this, even if there is every intention of doing all we can to avoid it.

"As a result, we have agreed to immediately freeze approximately $25million, or 50 per cent, of the remaining forecasted player spend in 2020.

"In the event that this financial scenario eventuates, the frozen payments and benefits would become waived permanently. Alternatively, if professional rugby can resume and the financial outlook improves, then some of the frozen payments and benefits could be reinstated."

Among the other key changes, promotional payments and the majority of player performance incentives have been frozen.

From May 1, 15 per cent of the players' 2020 base retainers for those paid more than 50,000 New Zealand dollars per year will be frozen, with that raising to 30 per cent in September.

Saracens have asked high-earning players and staff members to defer part of their wages, confirming the club will take part in the British government's furlough scheme.

English rugby's Premiership season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic and, with lockdown measures still in place across the country, there is no immediate sign of professional sport returning.

Wasps, Worcester and Gloucester have all reduced wages, and now Saracens – who will be relegated to the second tier for next season due to a breach of salary cap regulations – have announced a similar decision.

The current English and European champions also confirmed on Wednesday they would place a number of staff members on furlough. That is the government scheme that offers to pay 80 per cent of wages, up to £2,500 per month, in order to minimise the loss of jobs during the crisis.

Saracens have also requested that players and other members of staff who earn over £75,000 – likely to include England stars Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Jamie George and Elliot Daly – to defer the part of their salaries above that amount.

Saracens said the wages would be paid back over the course of an 18-month period from the start of the 2020-21 season.

"COVID-19 has had huge ramifications on every facet of society and rugby is no different, this is not an easy time for the players and the club alike," Itoje said.

"But in order to see this through, the whole organisation needs to pull together and do what we can for the future of Saracens and our individual careers within the sport."

Billy Vunipola is convinced Eddie Jones remains the right man to lead England to the top of world rugby and has heeded the warning his head coach gave the team after signing a new contract.

England defeated Australia and two-time defending champions New Zealand en route to reaching the Rugby World Cup final in Japan last year.

However, a fired-up South Africa proved a hurdle too far in the final as England limply succumbed to a 32-12 defeat in Yokohama.

The Rugby Football Union remained convinced in Jones, though, and the Australian signed a new contract through to the 2023 World Cup earlier this month.

Saracens powerhouse Vunipola says the whole team is behind Jones.

"I think everyone just sees Eddie through the lens of the media and what he says, but the players will always back him and follow him," he told the Daily Mail.

"If you watch the documentary about the World Cup, the most excited I have ever been was when we had the first meeting before the New Zealand game. People should watch that.

"It was the first meeting of the week and Eddie just said, 'Nobody thinks we can beat the All Blacks, but I do'. It was on the Sunday I think, the day after we had played Australia.

"Everyone was pumped already! It was a shame what happened to us in the final but I truly believe we have the right leader in charge to take us to the top."

Upon agreeing to his new deal, Jones put England's stars on red alert by suggesting as much as 60 per cent of the squad could be different by the time the next World Cup in France arrives.

Vunipola believes that is a sign of Jones wanting to keep England focused and says he is ready to meet the challenge.

"I've now got another three-plus years to be within that 40 per cent," he added.

"That's another way of him challenging the boys not to let up. Everyone needs to take heed of his messages and make sure you aren't the guy who gets cut."

Vunipola also harbours ambitions of representing the British and Irish Lions in South Africa next year, having not yet played in the red jersey – a shoulder injury scuppering his hopes in 2017.

"That is one of the biggest things for me. I want to give myself the platform to help me play for the Lions. I need to play for England first, to put myself in the shop window to play for the Lions," he said.

"I have to show I am good enough. It is going to be massive and there is so much competition. It is definitely something I am very keen on doing."

The Rugby Championship in 2020 could be held while the Super Rugby season is ongoing to make sure both take place, SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos has suggested.

This year's southern hemisphere tournament between Argentina, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand is due to be held between August 8 and September 27.

The domestic Super Rugby campaign is scheduled to finish with the final in June, but the coronavirus pandemic forced the season to be put on hold.

As organisers try to ensure both competitions can be staged in 2020, Marinos has proposed the idea of having them run in parallel, despite the drawback of Super Rugby teams having to give up international players during Test-match windows.

"Could you be playing the Rugby Championship at the same time as a domestic competition?" Marinos said via NewsHub.

"It's not trying to rubbish one for the other, it's how do we get a sensible solution in what may be a restricted time frame?

"Logic would suggest if there is an ability to create like what we've seen with the NRL around a bubble, if it's all in one location it seems a bit easier.

"At this point in time, we'd be silly to rule out anything. We are hell-bent and have every intention of delivering the complete package."

April 14 is a date defined by the unexpected in the world of sport.

From a unique edition of one of rugby's most famous competitions, to an Anfield turnaround that defied belief, sporting events on this date have produced their fair share of surprises.

It is also a date that will be forever etched in the memory of arguably the greatest golfer of all time.

Here we look back at some of the best sporting moments to take place on April 14.

1973: France failure ensures five-way tie

April 14, 1973 was the day on which an anomaly in the long and storied history of the Five and Six Nations was secured.

A tournament that saw all five teams struggle for consistency came to a close in Dublin. France had the championship in their sights after seeing off defending champions Wales in their previous encounter.

That victory left them as the only team capable of winning the title outright. Triumph at Lansdowne Road was needed to seal it but, in extremely windy conditions, inaccuracy from the tee cost them.

France missed three penalties and a conversion as Ireland claimed a 6-4 win that ensured every team finished on four points. The lack of a tiebreaker meant there could be no outright winner, with all five teams claiming a share of the championship. Had there been a points difference tiebreaker, Wales would have again prevailed.

2016: Klopp knocks out Dortmund in famous Liverpool comeback

Six months on from taking over at Liverpool, Klopp was reunited with the club where he made his name in the Europa League quarter-finals.

The last-eight tie with Borussia Dortmund was finely poised after a 1-1 draw at Signal Iduna Park.

It was Dortmund that appeared poised to progress to the semi-finals, though, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave them a 2-0 lead.

Divock Origi pulled one back for Liverpool three minutes into the second half but Marco Reus looked to have put the tie beyond doubt, his effort leaving the Reds needing three goals to progress.

However, a rasping low drive from Philippe Coutinho gave Anfield hope and Mamadou Sakho's close-range header in the 77th minute set the stage for a grandstand finish. Dejan Lovren proved the unlikely hero as he towered to turn home James Milner's cross in the 91st minute.

Liverpool went on to defeat Villarreal in the semi-finals but were denied in the showpiece in Basel as Sevilla claimed a 3-1 win.

2019: Tiger caps comeback with remarkable Masters win

One of sport's greatest comeback stories was completed on this day at Augusta last year.

Most had doubted whether Tiger Woods would ever recapture the form that saw him win 14 majors after his well-documented back problems.

Yet, the closest challenger to Jack Nicklaus' major record of 18 inched one closer with the kind of performance many considered consigned to history to win his fifth green jacket.

Woods began the final day two strokes behind Francesco Molinari, but a captivating final day tilted firmly in his favour on the 15th.

Molinari sent his tee shot into the trees and then found the water with a misplaced lay-up, eventually making double bogey.

Woods, by contrast, birdied from two feet to take the outright lead, with a sensational tee shot at 16 leaving him a short putt for a two-stroke advantage.

He made par at 17 to ensure a bogey would be enough on the last, and there would be no last-gasp slip-up, Woods standing on the 18th green with his arms aloft in celebration of a triumph few thought possible.

Scottish Rugby will discuss a salary reduction scheme with high-earning players and staff members as they deal with the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The governing body has confirmed it will continue to do whatever possible to support all clubs, though income streams are "badly affected" with no games staged at Murrayfield as the season remains suspended.

Scotland may also be unable to complete tours to South Africa and New Zealand in July, while there are even concerns over their home internationals scheduled for November, when they are due to play against Argentina, Japan and the All Blacks.

Fearing a potential loss of expected revenue in excess of £12million, chief executive Mark Dodson has agreed to take a 30 per cent pay cut until at least the start of September, while head coach Gregor Townsend agreed to a 25 per cent decrease last month.

A proportion of Scottish Rugby's staff will be placed into the government's furlough scheme, while players will be consulted over the possibility of reducing their wages as the organisation tries to cut costs amid the global health crisis.

"Our players and our coaches cannot fulfil any fixtures and the money we normally expect to make from the professional and international game at this time of the year, and over the summer, has all but disappeared due to the challenges beyond our control," Dodson said in a statement.

"No one knows with any certainty when any rugby can resume.

"We have seen many, many examples of our staff, clubs and players across the country supporting their local communities and demonstrating rugby's values in daily life.

"Rugby makes a positive contribution to society and it is this positivity and our whole sport working collectively that will give us the best opportunity to come through this crisis, safely, together."

England wing Jonny May will leave Leicester Tigers and return to Gloucester at the end of the Premiership season.

The 30-year-old joined Leicester in 2017 having previously spent eight years at Gloucester, with whom he came through the academy.

May, who has 56 Test caps, will move back to his former club once the 2019-20 season, currently on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, concludes.

The prolific May has scored 30 tries in 44 appearances for the Tigers, although the club sit second-bottom of the table, with only Saracens – who have a points deduction – below them. 

"I'm proud of my time at Leicester Tigers," May said as the team announced his move on Saturday.

"What an amazing experience to have played for such a great club. It really has developed my game and it's brought the best out in me as a player. I gave 100 per cent every time I put the shirt on and I have no regrets.

"For numerous reasons it hasn't worked out for me to stay on at Leicester Tigers, which is a shame.

"It's been a challenging few years but I have made some great mates and worked with some brilliant people.

"I hope that everyone is staying safe and healthy in this tough period and also really hope that things start improving and I get the opportunity to play for Leicester Tigers, with my mates, a few more times before I leave.

"Thank you to everyone at Leicester Tigers, especially the fans, I'm sorry we haven't given you what you have wanted the last few seasons but I'm very optimistic about the future for Leicester Tigers."

On returning to Gloucester, who sit ninth in the table, May added: "Once I had made the decision to leave Leicester there was only ever one club I really wanted to play for. 

"I'm grateful to [director of rugby] David Humphreys and everyone at Gloucester Rugby who have found a way for me to rejoin. I'm very excited about being back in Cherry and White playing at Kingsholm again."

Siya Kolisi says it is vital Nelson Mandela's legacy continues as the South Africa captain opened up on his role in helping the country fight coronavirus.

Kolisi, who skippered the Springboks to Rugby World Cup glory last year, was due to launch his foundation later in 2020.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has launched Kolisi into immediate action and he has partnered with others to make donations to provide vital supplies to frontline medical workers tackling the crisis.

An Instagram post from the flanker's foundation last week explained: "Whilst the Kolisi Foundation was months from launching with different projects in mind, we couldn't ignore the seriousness of COVID-19 so began to focus our energy and resources on supporting our frontline workers – supplying sanitisers and reusable masks. 

"We are thankful that we have been able to lean on our incredible partners to support the project and will look to partner with other established organisations in the future to guarantee our work is as impactful as possible, addressing hunger and other areas close to our heart."

Kolisi said part of his motivation is ensuring the work of former president Mandela continues.

"I just think his legacy must still continue, the rainbow nation he wanted to see,"he told BBC Breakfast.

"Actually working partnering up with the foundation, helping the frontline workers, we're all trying to attack the hunger and help the workers. 

"Just thinking of other people, the way he lived his life, he always wanted to make South Africa better, that's what we're trying to realise to make sure his legacy continues and because we have a beautiful country, so much potential, we can achieve so much. 

"Hopefully can inspire other people too."

Kolisi is drawing on his own experiences of playing as part of a team to aid a country that has had over 1,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and has one of the world's strictest lockdowns.

"It's really tough and I think playing in a team squad, this is going to be a team effort from everyone in South Africa and everyone in general, I think everybody has a role to play," he added. 

"It's a time for people to stay at home and not leave our houses, we have a complete lockdown our president has acted swiftly. 

"I think for people who are in a fortunate basis who can help others, food is a big problem at the moment, we're pushing hard on fighting the hunger, making sure people get meals there are a lot kids who go to school just to get one meal.

"I'm trying to provide for that and making sure we help as much as we can."

Richie Mo'unga has apologised and vowed to be a better role model after Crusaders players were slammed for an "unacceptable" breach of coronavirus lockdown regulations.

All Blacks fly-half Mo'unga headed to Malvern Park in Christchurch on Monday to train on his own, but arrived when another two groups of his team-mates were also training.

Malvern Park said he adhered to government rules by keeping his distance, but was filmed throwing a ball to one of his colleagues.

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern was critical of the quintet, which also included Sione Havili, Isi Tu'ungafasi, George Bower and Andrew Makalio, and New Zealand Rugby Chief executive Mark Robinson said their actions were "unacceptable."

Playmaker Mo'unga said he was acting on instinct by picking up the ball, but said he had not arranged to meet his team-mates - with the other two bubbles permitted to head out with each other as they live together.

He said in a video posted on Instagram: "I want to start by saying this was not an organised training. There were no communications beforehand or the night before to say we should train together.

"It was by coincidence that I rocked up and they were there training, just finishing up their session. My local park is their local park, our training schedules were the same, so we run on the same days and it just happened to be it was the same time.

"As I arrived, I yelled to the boys from afar asking how they were and went about my running session.  As I'd finished one of my running sessions, the ball had been kicked over and instinctively I went and picked the ball up and threw it back to them.

"I will say that was the only interaction I had with them apart from talking to them. It's something that was so instinctive for me to do, to pick the ball up and throw it back to them.

"I didn't think twice about it, it's something that happened fast. It's something that I've learnt that even my natural instincts I need to be more careful of and will be more careful of. 

"It doesn't excuse the fact that there were two other bubbles that were passing the ball around together and it doesn't excuse the fact that I can be a better role model in telling the boys 'look, you guys are done, you guys should head home now'. I am sorry for that.

Colin Mansbridge, chief executive of Super Rugby champions the Crusaders, said he is confident "there wasn't a conscious effort to flout the rules" but lessons must be learned.

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