Grassroots rugby in England might not accommodate scrums when the 2020/21 season initially swings into action. Amid fears surrounding close-contact sports due to the coronavirus, the RFU have yet to receive the green light to have its sport return with all aspects of the game in play.    

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The warning came at a visit to the 2022 Commonwealth Games site in Birmingham on Wednesday by government sports minister Nigel Huddleston. 

Quizzed by reporters about the increased risk to health because of the ongoing pandemic, the politician claimed changes to rugby at amateur level could be in situ until Christmas. “Where you have got full contact, there are some sports – judo, karate, other full-contact sports – where there are particular challenges,” he said. 

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“We’re working closely with all the governing bodies and saying, ‘Well, what do you propose?’ Then obviously we review what they are proposing. If it fits the criteria that is acceptable then they can go ahead. Inevitably there are going to be some changes.”

A follow-up question queried whether scrums – the iconic eight versus eight set-piece – might initially not be part of the grassroots rugby restart in England.

“Potentially,” replied Huddleston, “but we will have to see what they [the RFU] come back with. I won’t personally be making those decisions – it will be based on medical and other advice… I have to say I have been really impressed by the level of responsibility and awareness of all sports. They are all coming up with proposals. 

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“If you look at the measures being proposed, very rarely do we have to go back and say, ‘No, you need fundamentally change this’… But there is a recognition that we might have to see a few changes with the full contact issues or where there is that risk of respiratory challenges. We’ll see.”

A government announcement on July 9 gave grassroots team sports the permission to begin planning their return, with the RFU outlining a six-stage plan for rugby’s resumption below professional level.  

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