Doing away with reset scrums and eliminating “upright face-to-face” tackles would significantly reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission, according to a new study by World Rugby.
World Rugby also advises making a change of jerseys and headgear at half-time compulsory, banning huddles on the pitch and outlawing spitting. Players washing their hands and face with soap for 20 seconds and frequently changing balls during matches has also been proposed. Eliminating reset scrums would be the most significant move however, and one that would be welcomed in many quarters given the delays they can cause.
The findings will be put to World Rugby’s executive committee this week to consider any temporary law guidelines which would be adopted by the unions at their own discretion. At the very least the study – which examines transmission risk via saliva and sweat – is likely to lead to a clampdown by referees on the time it takes to reset scrums as well as upright tackles.
The study states that eliminating reset scrums would lead to a 30% reduction in “high-transmission risk exposure time”, having identified second-rows and props as the playing positions most at risk. Based on guidelines from the World Health Organization that define high-risk transition as players being within one metre for 15 cumulative minutes, World Rugby has found that the average exposure time for second-rows and props is 13.4 minutes and, significantly, reset scrums account for 3.6 minutes. In total, scrums are identified as making up 50% of high-risk exposure time during an 80-minute match.
World Rugby has long since been attempting to rid the game of upright tackles, having identified them as a key contributor to head injuries. Tackles when the defender went into contact upright and with force were found to be the most dangerous in a study that led to World Rugby introducing its high tackle framework before last year’s World Cup. The new study states that removing upright tackles from the game would “decrease the frequency of high-risk exposure events by 20%”.
Premiership clubs intend to continue with their tender process for coronavirus testing kits despite the government stating testing is not mandatory before returning to contact training in its “step two” guidelines.
Following a Professional Game Board meeting last week it was decided that Premiership clubs would not return to individual training – step one of the government’s guidelines – for at least two weeks. It is understood that a number of clubs had concerns over the cost of testing – around £20,000 a week – particularly if players had to be taken off furlough without a resumption date set but the latest announcement is not being taken as a green light to begin training without a testing regime.
It is understood the hold-up before returning to step one is in part due to the stringent protocols being compiled by the RFU’s chief doctor, Simon Kemp. They include that players must not use public transport to travel to training, that balls must not be shared or passed in training and that no food can be consumed on site.