North Otago rugby is re-strengthening its international connections.
Last week, the Government announced that from April 12, vaccinated Australians can travel to New Zealand without isolation, and as of May 1, fully vaccinated travellers from about 60 countries ona visa-waiver list will be able to arrive.
Before Covid-19, North Otago regularly attracted international talent for its Citizens Shield and Heartland competitions.
North Otago Rugby chief executive Colin Jackson said after last week’s announcement, the union had already started working to entice new international players for ‘‘the first time in a few years’’.
International players, both male and female, had also started making inquiries themselves — some of whom had played in North Otago before — and Jackson had been in touch with his rugby contacts throughout the world.
He was hopeful there would be some international players taking part in this club season, and possibly Heartland.
‘‘It’s all about building relationships,’’ Jackson said.
‘‘We want the opportunity for our young people to be able to travel in the opposite direction and experience the world via rugby.’’
The union would reintroduce overseas club rugby scholarships and was also looking at a potential exchange with a women’s rugby club in Pittsburgh.
North Otago Heartland coach Jason Forrest said the union was trying to tap into talent pools wherever it could at this stage. The border reopening also boded well for the Heartland representative season.
‘‘Predominantly, they’re here for club for the start, but some of them will be key marked for higher honours,’’ Forrest said.
‘‘[But] they’ve got to prove themselves at club [level] first.’’