On Monday evening, 27th of December 2021, Jean Castex announced that there would be an immediate reinstatement of the “gauges”. In other words restrictions to the number of people who can gather in a crowd for recreational purposes. This of course affects rugby and sport in general. Within that evening’s announcements was the bombshell vaccine mandate, to be implemented from January 15th onwards. The intention of the mandate is to make it compulsory to have a vaccine pass to play or watch sport in France. Having a negative PCR or LFT test will no longer be enough. The draft bill is expected to be ratified and approved by the French Parliament. What does all this mean with regard to vaccine mandates, French Rugby, and the Six Nations?
Emannuel Macron is also doubling down on his determination to, “hassle them (the unvaccinated), and we will continue to do this – to the end.” Is he and the French government, “following the science?” The opinion on the latest variant, Omicron, being, that it is a milder virus than the previous Delta variant. Macron, like his peers on the global political stage: Jacinda Adern and Justin Trudeau, is pursuing a zero-covid strategy. What does all this mean with regard to vaccine mandates, French Rugby, and what it might mean for the Six Nations?
To be honest, rugby, at the elite, professional level is fairly well-used to the “new normal”. High proportions of French professional players are already double-vaccinated and boosted with a third shot also. The Gallagher English Premiership also has high levels of vaccine uptake. In the Six Nations, as well as other elite-level competitions opposing teams will seemingly have to fully utilize their squads and drop those players who refuse to vaccinate.
The key word here, is, “elite”. At the elite level, the new mandates can, on the whole, be withstood. What about the lower tiers of the game, clubs whose means are less significant, where they have less TV money, and who depend on the fans to boost their gate receipts?
Six Nations Fixtures
In 2022’s Six Nations, France will have home games against Italy, Ireland and a mouth-watering final-day clash against England. With what we now know, will there be full stadiums? Could the viewing public stomach a tournament behind closed doors, or in front of reduced crowds (at least partially given England’s current decision not to follow suit)? This is being mooted at the time of this article’s publication. What would the damage to the various union’s coffers be?
Appeasing opposing factions in the Covid debate on Social Media and beyond
With both sides of the Covid debate having thrown pot-shots at each other for closing in on two years. How are we to pour healing balm on a seemingly endless, intransigent, online debate? Scrolling through the Twitter and Facebook replies to the opposing faction’s opinions reveal a festering rift. Those that are against the mandate are accused of being: ignorant, stupid, selfish and reckless. The pro-vaccine mandate side meanwhile, is charged with being naive sheep who can’t see the bigger, dystopian picture.
Rather than double-down on what our standpoint is, might it be time to try and understand our online foe’s position? There’s a significant chance that you won’t be able to change their opinion, regardless of how sophisticated your argument is.
France have a Six Nations to win as they build towards their 2023 World Cup on home soil. An end to the Pandemic and the accompanying measures and restrictions by then would be a gargantuan relief. Whether this is achieved through a zero-covid strategy, or by a relaxation of the mandating of tests and vaccinations, is the million-dollar question. It is this writer’s view that this can only be done through attitudes of: appeasement, forgiveness and understanding rather than: intransigence, posturing and name-calling.
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