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Revealed: The 167 people needed to stage a rugby match as World Rugby outlines return-to-play proposal


The World Rugby have released a document containing their return to play proposal. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

The World Rugby have released a document containing their return to play proposal. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

The World Rugby have released a document containing their return to play proposal. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

World Rugby insist that the final call on whether matches are played behind closed doors or in front of crowds will be determined by national government directives.

However, in the highly likely scenario that matches will take place without fans for the foreseeable future the game’s governing body has said, in a document outlining measures for a return to play, that a minimum of 167 people are needed for a match including players, coaches and match officials.

"Large traditional crowds are unlikely in the absence of an effective and freely available vaccine for COVID-19," the document, compiled by a group of medical experts led by former Ireland and Lions team doctor Éanna Falvey, who is now World Rugby’s chief medical officer, reads.

Clubs and unions across the world are facing into a hugely difficult year and the loss of revenue from the Covid-19 pandemic shut-down will be compounded by the absence of big crowds when the sport eventually returns.

World Rugby’s guidelines lay out the roadmap to playing again, but also lay bare the complexity involved for those running the sport.

The document, which was released last night, contains advice for clubs and unions about how to return to training and matches in line with government restrictions across the world.

Rugby's challenge is great, given the international nature of its competitions and revenue model and the high contact levels involved on the pitch.

"Rugby is a contact sport," the report reads. "To fully train and to play matches requires intermittent close physical contact.

"This type of contact will make all players training and playing close contacts. Therefore, should a team-mate or opposition player in a recent match develop an infection, all their teammates are likely to be close contacts and require isolation and testing."

To offset that risk, squads will return in small numbers with full training only allowed when government restrictions are eased. The number of coaches present at training will be kept to a minimum.

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Players will have their temperature taken before entering the training facility and will be required to fill out regular questionnaires. Where appropriate, they will have to wear protective equipment like masks and gloves.

They are advised to avoid spitting, sharing water bottles and communal nutritional supplements, stop shaking hands and hugging. They will be required to change and shower at home and travel to and from training alone.

There will be no social events, while team meetings should be held outdoors or in spaces that allow 1 person per four square metres.

Once contact training is permitted, the document outlines, then all training participants become close contacts of one another which "has implications for isolation or quarantine should a squad member become infected with COVID-19."

World Rugby’s document emphasises the heightened risk of injuries to players who have been training at home for the last month and recommends "each territory establishes a sufficient time to re-condition players".

Travel to competitive games will be another challenge, with the document recommending where practical players travel to matches individually by car. If a bus is required, then it needs to be thoroughly cleaned before and after each journey.

If hotels are required, World Rugby recommend that players are given individual rooms, that the entire travelling party are staying on the same floor and players and staff will need to meet in private rooms for meals and team meetings.

Clubs and unions should appoint Covid-19 managers to liaise with public health officials and a lead person to implement the plans.

They must speak to their insurers before proceeding with training to ensure they are covered.

Every day, the team facility must be thoroughly cleaned and clubs need to put in place an isolation room on-site in case of infection.

Rugby is currently listed as being part of stage five of the lifting of restrictions in Ireland, meaning a return to activity on August 10. While the IRFU have welcomed the road-map to a return, they have not yet outlined their plans for getting the players back on the pitch.

Players were expecting to return to training on May 18, but that now seems unlikely.

Ireland's summer tour to Australia will be cancelled in the coming days and there is uncertainty about every element of the schedule.

"We have been working in full collaboration with unions, regions, competitions and players in preparing a set of guidelines that are WHO compliant in a rugby context," Dr Falvey said.

"They outline all the necessary considerations and steps for players, coaches, clubs, unions and competitions and will be updated regularly as the advice and environment evolves.

"Initial feedback has been extremely positive, and it is certainly prudent that we have a standardised and ready-to-mobilise approach when it is safe and appropriate to resume steps towards playing in the context of easing social-distancing measures."

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said the sport would be guided by public health officials.

"We are all missing the sport that we know and love, and while it is difficult not to be playing or training, advice by the respective governments and authorities must be adhered to," he said.

"World Rugby, in full partnership with unions and players, has been busy behind the scenes ensuring that everything is in place for a safe and speedy return to the sport when it is appropriate to do so.

"This includes delivering best-practice coaching, refereeing and conditioning webinars, resources and Apps and, of course, a phased roadmap for the sport’s return to training and playing."

Minimum number of stakeholders required to deliver a match

Home team players 15

Visiting team players 15

Home team substitutes and bench support 11

Visiting team substitutes and bench support 11

Home team travelling reserves 3

Visiting team travelling reserves 3

Home team roving Doctor 1

Visiting team roving Doctor 1

Home team roving Physiotherapist 1

Visiting team roving Physiotherapist 1

Home team Technical box (water carriers) 2

Visiting team Technical box (water carriers) 2

Home team Coaches box 5

Visiting team Coaches box 5

Match Day Doctor 1

Immediate Care Lead 1

Medical room video viewer 1

Paramedics 6

Other medical specialists 2

Medical room video operator 1

Security guards 4

Referee 1

Assistant Referee 2

Side-line Referees, time keeper, statistics and communications 7

Television Match Official 1

Citing Commissioner 1

Ball team and ball team supervisor 7

Match Manager 1

Match Director 1

Administration 10

Broadcaster pitch-side crew (cameramen, line runners & floor manager) 20

Commentators 6

Outside broadcasting van 15

Stadium operations 8

Big screen and PA announcer 2


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