Super Rugby players banned from playing club rugby under strict biosecurity measures

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Australia's Super Rugby players will not be able to return to club rugby during the upcoming domestic competition as part of strict biosecurity measures that will need to be observed.

Teams will operate in strictly regulated groups in their Super Rugby environment, limiting the ability of players to turn out in club rugby with players and staff who aren't in the Super Rugby bubbles.

When first unveiling return to play plans, chief medical officer Warren McDonald had said there would be no barriers for players to go back to club rugby.

With players needing to only undertake essential tasks outside of playing and training as part of receiving government clearance for the competition to go ahead, it was deemed that allowing players to play club rugby was too much of a risk.

In a statement on Friday afternoon, Rugby AU head of professional rugby services Ben Whitaker said whatever action was required to get a competition up and running would need to be observed.

“Given the current restrictions facing professional and community sport as a whole and our desire to have professional rugby return and thrive in a domestic format, we must take the necessary strict action to mitigate the risk of both infection and transmission of the virus within any of our professional environments, despite there being a very strong and understandable desire for players to play club rugby where possible," he said.

“This has been specifically addressed within our Return To Play plan and players and coaches have been informed of the decision.

“Whilst it is acknowledged it is the desire of all Super Rugby teams to provide game time to players outside any given matchday 23, especially via club rugby, it has been agreed by teams that this practice in the current environment, where we are still seeing some evidence of community spread, would significantly compromise the team environment and possibly the competition.

“As with all things during this COVID-19 pandemic, the situation is changing rapidly and regularly. The professional rugby Return to Play Committee will continue to keep teams updated as to any changes to directives from the various Governments, and how that in turn effects our guidelines and the ability for contracted players to participate safely in club rugby.

"The committee will regularly re-assess the status of this player welfare directive and remain agile to align the availability of professional players with the measures in place to mitigate the risk profile of COVID-19 in community training environments.”

It is hoped that the Super Rugby AU competition will kick off on July 3 but a broadcast agreement remains the major hurdle for that to occur.

Rugby AU interim CEO Rob Clarke expressed confidence earlier in the week that the discussions would be complete in the coming days.