Rugby and physical contact post-coronavirus

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By Akeem Greene

Health professionals and sport administrators have agreed that the impact of COVID-19 could be long felt, thereby inevitably forcing adjustments to the mode of operation, especially in contact sports.

Rugby is one of the most brutal contact sports since it has little to no protective gear for players, despite the strict rules on how to tackle.

Understandably, there can be no physical distancing when players go in a for a scrum, a regular occurrence in rugby.

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, there is no on-field action, but whenever play resumes, national player Rondel McArthur says himself and teammates could be skeptical on how they play in a world where COVID-19 exists.

McArthur, who has played over 45 games for Guyana across the Sevens and Fifteens formats, says it is something the players will be thinking about.

“That is going to be a big challenge; I think the IRB [World Rugby] is currently working on guidance in that area, but given it is a contact sport, a lot of things are going to change, persons are going to be skeptical whether this [COVID-19] has passed over. The transition phase will be a bit hard, but we will manage,” the 28-year-old related to News Room Sport.

Prior to the coronavirus lockdown, the national Fifteens players were preparing to play against Trinidad and Tobago this month in the Rugby Americas North (RAN) Championship.

According to RAN, the Senior Men’s 15-a-side tournament was set to get underway in April and doubled as the first regional qualification round for Rugby World Cup 2023. These matches have now been tentatively postponed to 2021, with further details to be confirmed.

National rugby player Rondel McArthur (with ball) in action

McArthur and his teammates are now left to do personal training since the National Park, where they usually train as a group, along with other training facilities have been temporarily closed.

As they seek to keep close to their peak when action resumes, the player said they are working with the plan provided to them by the team’s trainer.

“We are doing our personal training and it is hard not being around the guys. Every other morning you tend to go do some mileage and some other basic exercises. With all that is going on, I don’t think we will return back to normal for just now, so the guys are trying to keep themselves fit and hope for the best.”

McArthur, who plays the position of prop and was a part of the successful championship Fifteens team in 2014, is cautiously optimistic this year’s RAN Sevens could be held in November.

RAN, in a release, stated, “Currently, the 2020 RAN Sevens competition is still slated to take place in November 2020 and will be assessed over the course of the coming months as further developments take place. A venue has not yet been finalised.”

However, should the trend of cancellation continue, he is confident they can return strong in 2021, after a below-par 2018-2019.

That optimism is on the premise the players will at least be mentally and somewhat physically in shape for intense action.

In mid-March, the Guyana Rugby Football Union cancelled all national training until further notice, due to the threat of the novel coronavirus.

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