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Super Rugby to shine spotlight on mental health with wellbeing round

Super Rugby is set to shine a spotlight on mental health with a wellbeing round this weekend.

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Sir La'auli Michael Jones says the sport has a key role to play in helping people stay connected. Source: Breakfast

It's the third time the competition has highlighted mental health, but with the weight of Covid-19, lockdowns and the uncertainty around the world, this year is especially important.

All Blacks great Sir La'auli Michael Jones told TVNZ1's Breakfast the sport has a key role to play in helping people stay connected.

"Club rugby and clubs foster that and can be the glue in communities. They can very much be the fabric in those sort of bubbles of society," Sir Michael said.

"You feel part of this wonderful whānau and this tribe, I suppose, and so within that, again, you feel that sense of you belong and that's really important."

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NZ Rugby has joined other major sports bodies in addressing mental health issues such as suicide and depression. Source: 1 NEWS

This year the campaign is focused on encouraging touch, including personalised handshakes, after the pandemic forced people apart.

Sir Michael said physical connection lessens feelings of anxiety, depression and isolation.

Recalling his famous Tuigamala handshake, Sir Michael said "that was a pretty fresh example and pretty funky, but really what it was doing for us was expressing that aroha we had for each other and I suppose that wonderful friendship and connection".

"Through that, you build on that. You feel not only belonging but you also feel purpose, so even though it's a simple gesture, it means a lot.

"It's just being present, taking time," he said.