World Rugby to consider anti-coronavirus measures

By Chris JonesBBC rugby union correspondent
Russia play Japan at the 2019 Rugby World Cup
World Rugby has commissioned research into the amount of direct contact players have with each other during matches

World Rugby's executive committee will consider recommendations this week that could help significantly reduce the risk of coronavirus in the sport.

Measures such as limiting face-to-face contact, reducing time in scrums and hygiene procedures will be reviewed.

However, radical changes to the laws, such as eliminating scrums completely, would not apply to the elite game.

Any guidance from World Rugby would also be open to interpretation and implementation by individual unions.

This would be based on their government's advice and the prevalence of the virus in their territory.

Research conducted by rugby's top medical authorities has found that the sport's high-risk event exposure might be lower than widely expected.

While guidelines from the World Health Organization state that people are at a high risk of catching the virus if they spend 15 minutes cumulatively within one metre of an infected person, the average contact exposure time for second rows - the position in most regular contact with the opposition - is roughly 13.5 cumulative minutes.

Outside backs' high transmission risk time can cumulatively be as low as a minute-and-a-half, with the offside line offering a level of social distancing for those in certain positions.

But while there is no necessity to implement any law or behavioural change under WHO guidance, World Rugby - the game's governing body - has taken steps to help mitigate the risk to players at both the elite and community level.

This could see a clampdown on the number of scrum resets and stricter enforcements over high tackles - which often lead to face-to-face contact - as well as time spent in rucks and mauls.

Among the hygiene measures being considered are the changing and washing of the ball, regular use of hand sanitiser before, during and after matches, changing shirts and head-gear at half-time, and limiting the time teams spend at a ground before a match.

While there are no plans yet to restart the community game in any territory, New Zealand rugby is set to launch an internal competition in the middle of June, while the Pro 14 is aiming to resume derby matches from 22 August.

The English Premiership has yet to map out their return to action, but hopes to resume training in June.

Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care told the Rugby Union Weekly podcast the players are becoming increasingly frustrated by the current limbo.

"I think I speak for most of the players, we seem to be in the dark," Care said.

"The question is going to be: Do players and staff and coaches put themselves at risk. I know for a fact there are a lot of lads who have pregnant wives - do they come into training? No they can't.

"Would anyone who lives with someone elderly and vulnerable come into training? No they can't.

"There will be a lot of people who will choose not to [come into training]. There will have to be some testing and some assurance that you won't put people at risk and bring this disease home."