Competitive rugby will return this year despite the coronavirus pandemic, the chief medical officer of World Rugby has predicted.
Eanna Falvey said domestic, provincial or club games would likely return first, progressing to Tests, with Australia and New Zealand best-placed to get the ball rolling.
The entire world seems to be on standstill with activities involving groups gathering all on hold, and so is the global game. In the same fashion, Rugby in Uganda is suspended because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
“I would be very surprised if there isn’t some competitive rugby before the end of the year,” he told the Irish Times.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there is quite a bit of competitive rugby and I would say that we are probably going to get cleverer in how we can monitor players.”
New Zealand and Australia, which haven’t been as hard-hit as Europe have risen as the most likely countries to give way for this possibility.
Rugby inside New Zealand is set to resume next month as the politicians, under advisement from the health officials, have given the green light.
Australia is expected to follow suit with an in-country competition to be played starting July.
Falvey, though, warns opening up into competitive rugby could possibly give way to a second or even third wave of the Pandemic.
“For example, you would have inter-provincial games in Ireland,” he said.
“The next step would be to have short-hop transfers between countries that are in similar stages in their disease process.
“You could have matches between Irish and Welsh, Irish and Scottish, Irish and English teams, depending on what that would look like.
“That may well then show people that it is less risky than we thought and, in the absence of an outbreak, it may facilitate further travel and proper international rugby.”
Rugby Afrique, the continent’s game running body called off a rather extended calendar, to address the pandemic.
Uganda was meant to take part in the new format Rugby Africa Cup n Group C to tussle it out with Algeria and Senegal. The women were to take part in the women’s cup starting end of May, all the way in July. The Rugby Cranes were also expected to take part in the Hong Kong 7s later this year (and still have hope of featuring).
He said crowds could attend matches even before a vaccine was approved.
“Once we have games played, we will have crowds,” he said.
“The size of the crowd won’t be determined by World Rugby or by the individual union. It will be determined by the government, and the limitation on public gatherings will decide the size of crowds at games.”