As World Rugby proposes amendments to laws, we are all left in a limbo of doubt.
The UK government has just announced a resumption of play in certain sports, though medical experts are deeply divided on its wisdom. In any case, rugby remains at the back of the queue for a go-ahead. That is inevitable.
As we look across the next fifteen months towards the World Cup, it’s anyone’s guess how far the game will have progressed. Since each union can adapt the amendments according to local circumstance, we may find a dozen different versions being adopted across five continents. So long as matches are contained within one nation, the referee will be able to stick to one variation of the new rules. The moment sides from different unions meet (that is, any international), compromises will have to be accepted in advance. This is a recipe for confusion.
So it is vital that rugby is able to return to normal long before kick-off in that World Cup. It requires that no second surge of infections takes place and that the pandemic clears its traces right across the globe. But already we can see important variations. New Zealand Rugby has sanctioned a restart for the Farah Palmer Cup in August. No such confidence in the UK.
England says No!
According to Paul Rees (The Observer, 31 May 2020) Premiership Rugby has rejected all of World Rugby suggested amendments. So has the Pro-14. That can be seen either as a slap in the face for the bosses or a realistic view of what is possible. It doesn’t help that experts are busy offering contradictory advice. Pro-14 is another organisation that has pencilled in a restart date, August 22. But that may prove to be over-optimistic.
Time is running short
For the women’s game there is a lot of catching-up to do. Should the 2020 Six Nations be completed? The teams preparing for the RWC qualifiers would certainly prefer to do so, if only as a warm-up for those important knock-out games in the autumn.
We can imagine the programmes that head coaches would have planned in normal circumstances. In England it was to be a sequence of test matches, two this summer, three in the autumn and the 6 Nations next spring. All but the last series are less than likely. Even for the autumn games to take place, it would require all the nations involved to have reached a point where they are happy to allow a full-blown game to take place.
The players too would have to be both match-fit and totally confident of taking part. That is a quite different matter; they may have their own reservations. Who do they listen to: their national union, World Rugby or their government?