The Welsh Rugby Union has clarified how the latest Welsh Government [COVID] guidelines, in force from Monday 1 June affect Welsh community rugby – in its latest WRU Status Update.
The national governing body has reminded all involved in the community game from players and parents to coaches, referees and volunteers – that all rugby activity is currently suspended and confirmed that in-depth guidelines will be issued and a thorough process will be followed before any organised community rugby activity is sanctioned in Wales.
However, for further clarity, the WRU has issued a guide to exercising safely within the current guidelines.
WRU Community Director Geraint John said, “While all organised rugby activity is currently suspended in Wales, we recognise that players, coaches, referees and volunteers throughout community rugby will be keen to step up their plans to get ready for the return of rugby, as and when that is deemed safe and in line with Welsh Government guidelines.
“We will be contacting all clubs, rugby groups and Female Hubs in due course with in-depth guidance to help with the return to play process. This will include online meetings and advice on getting facilities and people ready for when the time comes to start sanctioned training and off-field activity. The safety of all involved is the priority when developing and delivering these guidelines.
“Until that time, we urge everyone within the game to stay fit and active within the phased approach taken by Welsh Government.”
Key latest info in relation to Welsh community rugby:
- From Monday 1 June, all players, coaches and referees, in line with the rest of Welsh society are now able to train outdoors with members of their household and one other household, within five miles of their home.
- The two metre social distancing rule is still in place regarding members of another household – no physical contact is permitted – check out the WRU’s Stay Active programmes for guidance
- Personal hygiene is as important as ever. Wash hands regularly and do not share any training equipment – balls, cones etc – with members of another household. Do not share drinks bottles.
- All indoor club facilities remain closed in line with government guidance
- All club-owned rugby pitches also remain closed while organised rugby activity is suspended
Return to Rugby Working Group
A ‘Return to Rugby Working Group’ has been tasked with looking at the protocols and procedures that will need to be established throughout both the professional and community game ahead of its return. This group, in line with World Rugby, is looking at numerous aspects such as medical matters with the main focus being that all involved are returning in the safest possible environment. It will also consider participation, operations and club development with the Union committed to ensuring that all clubs are in a position to return once we are given guidance to do so and it is important to note that we are essentially being directed by Government guidelines. Key recommendations from the Working Group are expected to be circulated in the coming weeks.
Welsh rugby has a watching brief at the moment, but this is a hugely positive position to be in as we develop plans for returning to play.
We will not be the first sport back – we already know that Premiership football is due to return on the 17th June. Football is probably the closest sport to our own, with its pervasive popularity at a community level and a professional tier which is its driving force and will be an extremely useful yardstick.
We have a huge opportunity to learn in detail about how to create a safe environments for players, virus testing, hygiene and sanitation, matchday logistics, venue management, travel to and from games and general safety for all other involved from referees to other staff and, obviously in the future, spectators.
Even more pertinently, we won’t be the first rugby playing nation to return – New Zealand are currently negotiating their own Return to Rugby Requirements which will lead to fulfilling the first professional fixtures of the Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa on Saturday 13th June, with all levels of club and community rugby below following suit on 20th June. We will watch and learn and we will be in a better position because of the opportunity to do this.
The PRO14 competition has stated its desire to return in late August, we have not named a date or set any fixtures in stone in Wales because we are of course closely aligned to Welsh Government advice and mindful that conditions must be right – but when conditions are right our current watching brief will stand us in good stead.
The community game in Wales is intrinsically linked to the professional game and it may be natural to assume that when conditions are right for one to return they would also allow the resumption of the other – but we must take great care to treat these two elements of Welsh rugby separately. We will also learn from precedents set in New Zealand and sports like football at a domestic level, but we are acutely aware that the timeline for the return of community rugby will run a different course.
We all desperately want the current health crisis to be over and for rugby to return throughout the country, but I echo the sentiment of the Sport Wales chief executive Brian Davies earlier this week who said that ‘it is better not to rush and get it right’ and that we must be ‘patient and unified’ at this time.
We have outlined in this update our current message to our community clubs – that community rugby remains suspended until further notice, but work on fitness and preparation can continue locally whilst following regulations.
As Welsh Government guidelines change, so will our advice to clubs, and we have committed to keeping this constant stream of information and good counsel flowing. But for now, patience and seizing the opportunity to observe other sports and nations who are at more advanced stages of planned returns to action, is the required.
The current modus operandi for all of Welsh rugby, and particularly at a local level, is to watch and learn.