The Super Rugby champion Crusaders have been forced to apologise after several members of their squad were spied flouting New Zealand's isolation rules.
All Blacks five-eighth Richie Mo'unga was the only player identified among a group passing and kicking a ball to each other at a Christchurch park on Monday.
Photographs of the players emerged on social media and the Crusaders confirmed they had breached their own rules around individual training during the coronavirus lockdown.
Under the country's strict controls, households have to stay within their own "bubble" and maintain social distancing from others.
Richie Mo’unga apologises for incident with Crusaders teammates.— Andrew Gourdie (@AndrewGourdie) April 6, 2020
He says it was “not an organised training”, “a coincidence”, and touching the ball was “instinctive”. pic.twitter.com/RKvOUUYKx4
Mo’unga took to social media to clarify and apologies for his actions, even though he said he wasn’t training with the ‘bubble’.
“I just want to speak about what happened and clear a few things,” Mo’unga said.
“I want to start by saying this was not an organised training. It was by coincidence that I rocked up and they were there training, finishing up there session.
Busted for breaking lockdown rules — All Black first-five Richie Mo'unga has revealed what really happened yesterday.https://t.co/z32xCE9TcN— nzherald (@nzherald) April 7, 2020
“My local park is there local park, our training schedules are the same.
“As I arrived, I answered the boys from afar asking how they were... as I finished one of my running sessions, the ball had been kicked over. Instinctively, I went and picked the ball up and threw it back to them.
“It was the only interaction I had with them, other than talking to them. It was something so instinctive for me to do, to throw it back to them. I didn’t think twice about it. Something that happened fast.
“I’ve learned that my natural instincts, I need to be more careful of. And I will be more careful of.
“It doesn’t excuse the fact that I can be better and be a better role model...I am sorry for that.”
Crusaders chief executive Colin Mansbridge said he had reprimanded the players involved, who reside in three different bubbles.
"They shouldn't have been at the same location," Mansbridge told Newshub.
"It wasn't planned and they should know better. I have spoken to those involved, and will reinforce that again tonight."