Source: INPHO

A Running Commentary – Rugby’s Wall of Silence

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There is exactly one month to the supposed start of the 2021 Six Nations.

The 6N committee has not offered us a word about the chances of it taking place.

There are fewer than 250 days to the start of the 2021 Rugby World Cup.

The RWC committee is hoping against hope that it can take place as advertised, but is offering us no guidance about its plans.

None of us would like to be in the shoes of either committee. They are faced with difficult issues that are made more complex since they involve many nations. But it would be a kindness if they could let us know how they see things falling into place.

The Six Nations

For the 6N to go ahead as normal it would need all six countries to allow the movement of players between them without quarantine.

If only one of them bans any movement or insists on quarantine, then the question arises: do we go ahead with a second successive competition that is unlikely to finish? All of us would be loath to lose it completely, but we must wonder whether it wouldn’t be better just to arrange one-off internationals between willing opponents.

Till now we can be pretty certain that no player has run on to the field unwillingly, but as the new variant of the virus takes its grip, that may no longer be the case.

And the teams have not been able to train and play to the same intensity and regularity. Only England has seen a profusion of matches since last March. The Red Roses completed all five 6N games in 2020 then two autumn internationals. Those seven stand way ahead of all their competitors.

In addition they have enjoyed nine rounds of the new Allianz Premier 15s league, again a privilege denied to most of the opponents. France abandoned its Elite 1 league at the start of November. The other countries have seen more or less no rugby.

It would be a kindness if the committee could keep everyone up-to-date with the likelihood of three possible outcomes: a prompt start, a delayed start or an abandonment.

All it offers us on 3 January is: ‘we applaud the preparation the Women’s Six Nations teams will be doing to get ready for the 2021 Championship’.
If they start their preparations that late, then we must truly wonder.

The RWC

The lack of news from New Zealand causes much bigger problems. Arrangements for a World Cup are on an infinitely wider scale than any other.

Quite apart from the fate of the many teams hoping to be there – both the certainties and the qualifiers – the media and the public have a right to know how things are panning out.

They all have long-term arrangements to make.

The world has learned to its cost that the pandemic does not spread its tentacles evenly around. There are nearly a score of nations still hoping to take part.

All the committee offers us at the turn of the year is: ‘it’s all eyes on New Zealand for Rugby World Cup 2021 next September.’

That sounds like whistling in the dark.

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