More and more, mandating that only a fully vaccinated rugby player policy introduction will have an impact on both Northern and Southern hemisphere competitions.
The internal reactions from rugby unions and administrators take into account the health and welfare of all stakeholders. Yet with personal choice highlighting some genuine fears and more social media scaremongering, how well rugby can influence and (in a way) control players’ choices, is a hot topic.
French media just reported how on Monday evening, the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, made strong announcements concerning French sport, therefore, obviously French Top14 rugby and the Six Nations home games. Rugby Rama noted that ‘regarding the players, the vaccination pass will also be compulsory for all players in the French championships. From January 15, any unvaccinated player, professional or not, will no longer be able to play rugby’.
As the different unions around the World adapt and react to the evolution of the Covid-19 pandemic, back in May 202, World Rugby established guidelines that have now transformed from encouragement to mandate. World Rugby Chief Medical Officer and guideline co-author Dr Éanna Falvey added: “We have been working in full collaboration with unions, regions, competitions, and players in preparing a set of guidelines that are WHO compliant in a rugby context”.
With 18 months of hindsight, her assessment that; “These recommendations outline all the necessary considerations and steps for players, coaches, clubs, unions, and competitions and will be updated regularly as the advice and environment evolves”. That is certainly happening here now.
Fully vaccinated rugby player policy to impact both hemispheres
In the Premiership, a higher uptake of their vaccine program has seen acceptance that players and staff must get their jab. With the Professional Game Board (PGB) hoping their elected mandate for their fully vaccinated rugby player policy to help resist any widespread disruption to the schedule, yet in Round 11 the Sale Sharks had a number of players test positive, so with input from the PGB, their game against the Newcastle Falcons was called off. Newcastle take the points [a different policy than what is occurring elsewhere].
United Rugby Championship and European Professional Rugby Club competition has elected to postpone games. In that way, matches affected will be re-scheduled. However, on Boxing Day, each of the four URC matches were not played due to positive Covid-19 results. That is beginning to put pressure on when those replayed games can be fitted into the calendar. Complaints from media, and now some Football managers is aiding the call to not “overload players” with more sport when the pandemic is forcing some to play multiple games unrested, or to isolate from loved ones after teammates or staff have tested positive.
With more than 30 players unavailable, the decision was taken to postpone the game
The rugby season is falling apart again and it's just grim https://t.co/QacYtoPtsK
— Rúaidhrí O'Connor (@RuaidhriOC) December 21, 2021
New Zealand Rugby too, has opted for the stronger stance, whereby the government introduced ‘My Vaccine Pass’ will dictate if players over the age of 12, can participate. It will be utilized during registration, and that includes all contracted players. Every All Black and Black Ferns player were fully vaccinated, so with booster shots around the world now promoted as the safest defence against Omicron and the Delta variants, the game in all corners of the globe are reacting.
The threat to health is primary although, the argument for personal choice is one that is impacting all sections of society. Doctors and Nurses have been fired for not following mandated rulings, so now it is the decision to be a fully vaccinated rugby player, and be confident that everyone around you is protected. Or, to be singled out for your choice, and to lose the ability to play. There will be some who take that decision to heart, and some who will want to take the stance out of protest or political beliefs. Whichever way they go, if like the French government, you rule that it is ‘to vax, or not to play’ then the social context will make for a very difficult conversation for some.
What is clear now though is that an injection – be it the first or a booster dose – is now part of every rugby player’s kit.
“Main photo credit”