With rugby in England moving from Stage B to Stage C on the RFU’s return to rugby roadmap, how close are we to a return to schools rugby?
Well, still quite some way. There are another three stages of progression to go before rugby returns to ‘normal’ although Stage E does offer some hope of rugby with its loose aim of some inter-club fixtures with adapted law variations.
Before we can even get to rugby, though, there is so much to consider.
First of all – when will schools be back?
If they are back, will they be back playing sport in house as normal – forget rugby.
If they are, how do they feel about having 50+ pupils all sat on a coach together for anything between half an hour and 3 hours for away trips?
If they are happy with that, how do they feel then about having those kids get off the coach and interact with an entirely new group from a different area.
How then do they feel about playing a contact sport against them?
If all that is ok, how do they then feel about bringing those pupils back and reinserting them back into their own schools’ environment having been so exposed in another school?
How do parents feel about it all?
And presumably several dozen other things that those whose expertise ranges far beyond simply talking about school rugby will have considered.
The point is, though, that in essence there are a huge number of issues to get past before school rugby even gets its place on the agenda. Predicting a date for its return, at present, is near enough impossible. Darts have been thrown while blindfolded with a greater sense of reliability.
Of the few certainties is that it will not start on time. Most schools had either 29th August or 5th September as their first fixture. That looks impossible, forget all the other issues – it simply does not seem possible that the RFU will progress forward three stages in three weeks.
The next most positive estimate would be that rugby resumes after half term, however with the St Joseph’s Festival, due to have taken place on the 16th-17th October, now moving to February 13th/14th 2021 a return immediately after half term looks increasingly unlikely – after all it is only two months away.
Perhaps then we start looking towards a post-Christmas start, and now we must consider that rugby will very much be clashing with other sports, frozen pitches, waterlogged pitches, and a virus whose winter bite is, as yet, at best unknown.
All of which is a very long-winded way of saying that we simply don’t know, but perhaps more pertinently that there is no real way of making accurate predictions here. Events and circumstances will be the masters of all around.
One of the great positives of schools here in England though is their sheer energy and thought that they put into giving their pupils the best possible experience.
So, school rugby as we know it could be back soon (ish), it could be back a long way from now, or we could be waiting until the 2021/22 season. However, keep an eye out for innovation, be it using the RFU’s Ready4Rugby programme, having intra-school games where XVs get mixed up, creating sporting ‘bubbles’ with other nearby schools for inter-school fixtures, or any number of other creative sideas.
Schools are planning, schools are listening, and schools are working with everyone they can to give their pupils as good an experience as they can.
If we can help in those plans in any way, perhaps by streaming so parents can watch, then please do not hesitate to get in touch. After all, we all just want to see school sport up and running in any way, shape, or form, as quickly and as safely as it can.