Following a Zoom call with NCA club representatives last week, Dr Simon Kemp, the RFU’s Medical Services Director, spoke about the key areas which are currently being discussed around the return of National League rugby.

The intrinsic nature of the sport has left rugby in a much more complexed situation when comparing it to football due to the amount of time players spend in close proximity.

On July 11th, the government announced a framework for the return of recreational team sports and they are keen to see all community sport return as quickly as possible when it is safe to do so.

Based on the framework, the next step for the RFU is to put forward their proposals, specifically considering the Covid transmission risk and demonstrating mitigations and any adaptations to the game that are required.

The RFU’s proposals will then need to be approved and signed off by government, Public Health England [PHE] and Health and Safety Executive [HSE].

In essence, Kemp has said that rugby needs to think about how much Covid we have got in the community and secondly, what is the risk of spreading Covid in rugby before we can return.

Some of his key points were:

  • The Premiership have already been through this process and have returned to full contact training ahead of the resumption of their season on 14th August.
  • The Premiership’s test results can be ‘reassuring’ if we don’t see widespread transmission after games or when teams get back to regular, full contact training.
  • At NCA level, there isn’t the resources to follow the Premiership model. If there was a coronavirus test that worked off saliva, that is free and gave you an answer in a few hours, that would be a bit of a ‘game changer.’
  • The high-risk activities in rugby are mauls, scrums and standing tackles when both players are upright because those are the situations where you typically have people face to face for more than three seconds. This, in turn, needs to be fully taken into account when deciding the next steps for the National Leagues.
  • Return to full contact rugby will depend on levels of Covid in community dropping.
  • Modifications to the laws of the game to reduce contact points may need to be applied. The RFU have said they will consulate clubs on this matter.
  • Clubs can be proactive during this time by cleaning their facilities just like high quality gyms or restaurants are doing in order to be ‘Covid’ secure and to minimise risks.
  • Topics such as player travel and accommodation will be issues which will be answered by broader government policy.