Crusaders back Richie Mo'unga insists a gathering of players at Christchurch's Malvern Park was a coincidence and that it was purely instinct that saw him pick up a ball belonging to another "bubble".
A number of Crusaders players were filmed at the park yesterday, apparently in breach of lockdown guidance which says people shouldn't mix with others outside their bubble, in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The Super Rugby franchise, in attempting to downplay the incident, has said there were three bubbles at the park, including Mo'unga, who is in one with his pregnant wife.
The other two bubbles included flatmates, with balls being tossed between them.
"While these players made a conscious effort to observe physical distancing, they did share equipment by throwing and kicking a rugby ball among themselves," the Crusaders said.
The head of NZ Rugby Mark Robinson blasted those involved, however.
"Some of the Crusaders players have not followed these rules and that is unacceptable. We have reminded everyone involved in rugby that they must abide by the New Zealand Government Covid-19 guidelines and this situation must not happen again."
Mo'unga took to his Instagram account to provide his version of events, insisting there were no plans to meet teammates at the park.
It just so happened they all lived near the park and had similar training schedules.
He went to the park to train by himself.
"As I arrived I yelled to the boys asking how they were, went about my running sessions.
"As I finished one of my running sessions the ball had been kicked over and instinctively I picked the ball up and threw it back to them."
He said it was the only interaction he had, other than talking to them.
"I didn't think twice about it, it happened fast and something I've learned, even my natural instincts, I need to be more careful of."
He said it didn't excuse the fact there were two bubbles training together, and that he could have done better and told them to stop.
"I am sorry for that."