Club and schools competitive rugby won’t re-start until next year after Scottish Rugby decided to delay the relaunch planned for the end of this month.
This week’s announcement by the Scottish Government to pause all non-elite outdoor contact sport for over 18s until Sunday 25 October across five regional health boards, and the previous decision to delay moving to Phase 4 of the route map back to playing until at least next week means Scottish Rugby’s timetable for its own Return to Rugby Roadmap has to be delayed, said the governing body.
A statement from Murrayfield said the proposed restart date for clubs and schools rugby – playing in regional competitions – of October 31 was “no longer feasible”.
“Without government lockdown measures easing to enable Scottish Rugby to move to Stage 5 and the resulting resumption of full contact training and non-competitive (friendly) matches, players would be unable to fully and safely prepare for competitive matches from 31 October,” said a Scottish Rugby statement.
The decision also affects the second-tier Super6 competition, which it was hoped could be played in a “sprint series” before Christmas giving developing players the opportunity for competitive rugby and prospects of call-ups to the Edinburgh and Glasgow pro teams whilst players are seconded to the five-match autumn international programme.
Instead Super6 will not re-start with a full fixture card until the spring of 2021. “Scottish Rugby remains fully committed to supporting the six franchises, their part-time professional players and staff,” said the SRU statement.
Over a dozen rugby clubs across Scotland have reported positive coronavirus cases in recent weeks, resulting in facilities being temporarily closed and deep cleaned, training sessions postponed and public health guidance on self-isolation being followed by those affected.
Recent government restrictions would also limit the ability of clubs to travel to games with car sharing not permitted and private hire buses only able to operate at 50% capacity, alongside how changing/shower rooms can be used safely in club houses.
Scottish Rugby President, Ian Barr said: “After much careful consideration and following a detailed briefing by colleagues in Rugby Development, our Chief Medical Officer and the updates from Scottish Rugby’s Threat Management Group we took the difficult decision as a Council to recommend delaying the start of competitive rugby until January 2021, which the Board then fully supported.
“We know many clubs and schools were preparing well and looking forward to resuming competitive matches, often against their local rivals due to the proposed regional fixtures, but we must put the safety of our players, volunteers and their local communities first.
“With Covid numbers rising nationally we must act responsibility in the communities where our clubs and schools play, and secondly this delay gives us all time to take stock and contribute to helping lower the infection rates, which can hopefully enable us to return to rugby fully at the right time.”