WRU lifts Caerphilly junior rugby ban after 'Let the kids train!' petition

'We want rugby to be out there and be played' - WRU community director Geraint John

A petition has been launched calling on the Welsh Rugby Union to lift a suspension of junior rugby in locked down areas of Wales.

Clubs across south Wales had been told to halt already socially-distanced training during the local lockdowns.

On Tuesday the WRU announced it was lifting the restrictions in Caerphilly with immediate effect.

In a statement the Union said the decision had been made following regular reviews of the situation.

The WRU statement said: "We will continue to review the temporary suspensions imposed in other local authorities where local lockdowns are in place until the conditions are such that rugby can safely resume.

"Clubs then have the choice whether to return to training and will be supported by the WRU whether they choose to reopen or not."

The petition against the suspension was launched by a junior coach at Cardiff club Canton.

By 10:00 BST on Tuesday, 29 September the petition had gained more than 4,500 signatures.

The Canton RFC coach, Wayne David, posted the petition under the slogan: "WRU let the kids train!"

It followed guidance sent to clubs in affected areas including the south Wales valleys, Newport, Cardiff, Bridgend, Vale of Glamorgan, Swansea and parts of Llanelli.

Local lockdown map
Nearly two-thirds of Wales' population is now living under lockdown

That guidance stated: "All community rugby training in those County Boroughs will be suspended until further notice in line with government timelines."

It added: "Whilst we acknowledge that schools are remaining open, we want to play our part in limiting community transmission at this time, and our priority here is player welfare and public health."

Touch rugby was previously sanctioned for players aged under-seven to under-11 in August. Later that month all players of all ages throughout Wales were also allowed to do so.

WRU rules for clubs in locked down areas cover all age grades and include groups of players training in groups of no more than 15, with designated coaches for each "pod" of participants.

The Football Association of Wales (FAW) has taken a different approach, allowing clubs at all levels to train under guidelines aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "Outdoor classes and team sports for up to 30 people are able to continue within lockdown areas.

"However, our overall guidance provides a framework for national governing bodies to provide leadership and guidance to their respective sports to ensure activities can be done safely and appropriately.

"People should not travel to areas outside the county to participate in sport or exercise."

In their update issued on Tuesday, the WRU detailed the financial and other support offered to clubs during the crisis and defended its approach.

The WRU statement read: "When local lockdowns are imposed by the Welsh Government, our approach is to temporarily suspend rugby in that area. The rationale for this is that rugby environments ordinarily bring people together who might not otherwise come into contact with each other.

"Once the suspension is in place, the WRU continues to review the situation taking into account a number of factors at work in the area, including the local trajectory of the virus, as well as supporting information gathered on our Covid-tracking network and local intelligence.

"Armed with this information and having provided the clubs with a window of opportunity to reassess the effectiveness of their internal protection measures, the next step is to discuss the situation with the impacted clubs.

"There is no blueprint on how to answer the challenges Covid-19 has created for our sport. There is no desire to stop people playing rugby nor to stop children from being active.

"Equally, there is no desire to increase transmission or to potentially add to the burden of health services. The suspensions are intended to be temporary and aim to limit community transmission at critical points in time.

Public Health Wales says it is not aware of giving any advice on playing rugby in the context of local Covid-19 restrictions to either the WRU or Welsh Government.

WRU community director Geraint John outlined why the governing body had adopted the policy.

"It was an internal decision we looked at very closely, we just felt it was the right thing to do,"said John.

"We have a large number of people playing, we have a large number of people coming in from different localities, different schools.

"Some of these decisions are very difficult to make."

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