The governing body has released information on how to get back to rugby safely

World Rugby’s Covid-19 Return to Play Guidelines

World Rugby has released a set of guidelines on how to make a safe return to rugby activities.

Rugby around the world has been suspended at both elite and community level due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the governing body has provided a framework for unions and competitions to follow when it is deemed safe to return to the sport.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “We are all missing the sport that we know and love, and while it is difficult not to be playing or training, advice by the respective governments and authorities must be adhered to.

“World Rugby, in full partnership with unions and players, has been busy behind the scenes ensuring that everything is in place for a safe and speedy return to the sport when it is appropriate to do so.

“This includes delivering best-practice coaching, refereeing and conditioning webinars, resources and apps and, of course, a phased roadmap for the sport’s return to training and playing.”

You can find World Rugby’s Covid-19 return to play guidelines here.

World Rugby’s Covid-19 Return to Play Guidelines

Going solo: Melbourne Rebels’ Billy Meakes keeping fit at his home (Getty Images)

Of course, nobody will be able to return to rugby until government restrictions regarding public gatherings, social distancing and travel are reduced or lifted. But the guidelines should allow unions to prepare in advance.

The framework includes a phased return to training from small groups to non-contact training for the whole squad to full-contact training.

It is also suggested that players and staff are asked to fill in a daily questionnaire to report any possible Covid-19 symptoms, as well as have their temperature checked on entering the training ground/facility. Those showing signs of having the virus would be refused entry.

Practical steps are advised too – hand sanitisers available in all rooms at clubs/facilities, no sharing of water bottles, propping doors open to avoid the handles being used, the closure of showers and changing rooms, the suspension of car pooling.

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Perhaps one of the hardest measures for players to adhere to will be cutting out handshakes, hugs and so on that are so common in rugby.

In terms of the resumption of elite matches, the guidelines state: “When social distancing has been reduced to allow close contact and public gatherings of up to 250 people, match play is possible, but spectators will not be permitted to attend.”

World Rugby’s Covid-19 Return to Play Guidelines

Waiting game: A full house at Twickenham seems a long way off (Getty Images)

There is likely to be a strict limitation on the number of non-playing and match-day staff permitted at venues. Having said this, World Rugby lists 167 people as ‘minimum stakeholders required to deliver a match’, even for one to be played behind closed doors.

Other measures for matches include avoiding overnight stays where possible and travelling in individual cars when practical.

Once gatherings of 500 or more people are allowed, unions and clubs will be able to look at limited crowd attendance while “large traditional crowds are unlikely in the absence of an effective and freely available vaccine for Covid-19”, although this will be determined by government directives.

There is a long way to go until rugby returns in its traditional guise.

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