The Italian Federation (FIR) has invested in fifteen scholarships to support players at or close to international level. These will help them to pursue their job or studies while continuing their rugby careers.
The Olympics: According to opinion polls a majority of Japanese want the Olympics postponed or cancelled. The Prime Minister insists they will go ahead. The overall costs have risen by £2.8 billion to cover expenses caused by the pandemic. The cost of quarantining and accommodating all the athletes safely is a massive burden. Feelings are running high. Some members of the organising committee say firmly that the Olympics cannot possibly be postponed a second time. The dates: 23 July – 8 August.
That has its bearing on the Rugby World Cup, due to start on 18 September. One strange possibility is that the Olympics will be cancelled but the RWC take place. That would be a huge boost for 15s rugby, giving the tournament a higher profile, out of the giant shadow of the five rings; and it would enable all the elite 7s players to take part, should they so wish.
Other outcomes remain possible.
Saracens’ main sponsor is now StoneX. This New York company probably knows more about Nasdaq than rugby football, but Sarries will be relieved to get their backing. Copthall Stadium gets another new name: StoneX Stadium. City Index have joined in, adding their name to the shirt.
Jasmine Joyce was chosen as Allianz Premier 15s Player of the Month for December. She has been in quite outstanding form this season.
The Six Nations committee has delayed the 2021 championship to spring or summer. It’s no surprise that they could not commit to a more precise date. But that ‘summer’ brings us very close to the RWC. All six squads have had to put their preparations on hold.
The postponement brings problems for national competitions as well. The French management is working on a possible 6N restart in May, but that would affect their own Elite 1 schedule. They announced a squad of 31 for a training 10-day programme, 17-27 January, at Marcoussis. The group contains players with three different targets: the Olympics, the World Cup and both. This has made arrangements tricky. The management is working closely with David Courteix, the 7s head coach, on the wisest path forwards. The new faces in the group include Emilie Boulard, a full back who played against England’s U20 and Assia Khalfaoui, a promising prop There are familiar names missing, due either to injury or a decisive return to 7s.
Allianz Premier 15s: The RFU announced the postponement of Rounds 11 and 12. With criticism rising over the absence of testing, it may prove harder for them to commit to an early restart.
A Tour to New Zealand? On 24 January an England women’s cricket squad will fly out to Auckland for a series against the White Ferns lasting through February and March. Does that hint at a possible tour for the Red Roses against the Black Ferns? That would be by far their favourite option from all the possibilities opening to them in a distorted summer. Their first duty would be to complete a Six Nations tournament. That would last six or seven weeks, leaving a possible slot for an outward tour before even more important business in September.
Sophie De Goede, now with Saracens, has been picked as Top 8 Academic All-Canadian for the 2019-20 season. She qualified under the heading ‘basketball’ as well as ‘rugby’. Dave Wilson, head coach of Gaels women’s basketball, said: ‘In all my 38 years of U SPORT (Canada’s University Sports) coaching, I have not seen another athlete or another person reach such elite status in all of the different endeavours to which she devotes her time. It is truly remarkable.’