Canadian rugby begins long road back

Rugby is returning. But with stark contrasts around the world.

乐橙官网平台 While the pro premier-level Super Rugby Aotearoa in New Zealand is going with full contact and no limits on fans in attendance, the top-level Super Rugby league in Australia is playing full contact with fans restricted to a percentage of capacity and socially distanced.

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Rugby is popular on the Island, with local players having plied the sport from the mini, youth, high school and club levels to the World Cup and Olympics. But do not expect the next JBAA versus Castaway Wanderers derby — or any competitive, contact rugby in the province — for quite some time.

乐橙官网平台 “While we won’t be returning to full-contact rugby for the foreseeable future, we’re excited to support clubs delivering modified training before progressing to non-contact rugby, like touch and flag rugby,” said B.C. Rugby CEO Annabel Kehoe, in announcing the organization’s back-to-play guidelines this month.

乐橙官网平台 Kehoe describes it as a “multi-layered issue.”

乐橙官网平台 B.C. Rugby, in co-ordination with the province’s back-to-sport guidelines, has issued a five-phase return plan. Phase 1 was labelled Rugby Banned during the general sports shutdown in the spring at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The current non-contact Phase 2 is labelled Rugby Re-Engaged and allows for distanced practices of two metres between players and the passing of balls OK.

“New Zealand has handled the lockdown well and geography played into that,” said John Tait, head coach of the Langford-based Canadian women’s sevens teams.

Tait has had plenty of time to think about things like that with the 2020 World Series season cancelled, including the Canada Sevens that was scheduled for Westhills Stadium, and the Tokyo Olympics postponed to next year.

“We are being extra cautious and in this stage have been working on the spacing part of the game and keeping the ball alive in optional practices. It becomes non-optional on August 3 when every player will return [to Langford]. I don’t see any international competition until the new year, so we can be extra safe and methodical in our approach.”

乐橙官网平台 Phase 3 of the provincial plan, called Rugby Restart, will begin in September and allow for non-contact games of flag or touch in small groups within clubs. That will lead to Phase 4, or Rugby Re-Invented, which will allow regional travel between clubs with “low-contact small-sided games” of sevens or 10s. A full return will be in Phase 5, likely in 2021, and to be called Rugby Revitalized.

乐橙官网平台 All clubs in the province must complete the World Rugby COVID-19 courses and assign one or more COVID-19 safety co-ordinators.

“Rugby is coming back but it’s up to all of us to make sure it’s brought back in a safe and responsible manner,” said Kehoe, in a statement.

Contact sports especially are being scrutinized during the pandemic.

乐橙官网平台 “But there is no one-size fits all,” said Tait.

Ice hockey can respond to the pandemic with full face shields, if needed, but wrestling might be among the most vulnerable sports, noted Tait. He added that facemasks can be considered for rugby, if it came down to that, noting his players practiced in facemasks at Westhills Stadium during the poor air quality brought on by the provincial forest fires in recent summers.

“Each sport has its unique issues during the pandemic. There was more close-to-close face breathing when I was playing [U Sports] basketball for the University of Cape Breton than when I switched to rugby,” Tait said.

Scrums, however, remain an issue in rugby.

World Rugby, meanwhile, is considering reducing substitutes allowed in a XVs game from eight to six.

“It’s a tremendous challenge in our sport,” said St. Michaels University School coach and former CW coach Ian Hyde-Lay.

“We’re in a holding pattern. I am on the secondary schools sports executive and we are monitoring the situation closely. It’s safety first. Spring school sports [which includes rugby] look to be more fortunate than fall sports and outdoor sports overall more fortunate than indoor sports.”

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