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The measures taken to safeguard the mental health of Wayne Pivac's locked down Wales players

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Wales boss Wayne Pivac has revealed the clinical resources placed at his disposal and that of his players to help keep their mental health ticking over during the coronavirus pandemic suspension of rugby. The sport has been in cold storage since the 11th-hour postponement of the March 14 Guinness Six Nations match versus Scotland in Cardiff and no one is any wiser nearly seven weeks later as to when it might return in 2020. 


Background preparations are still ongoing for Wales’ July to New Zealand but Pivac – who took over from Warren Gatland following the 2019 World Cup – believes it is only a matter of time before those matches are officially postponed, meaning there could be further demand on the WRU’s mental health resources to guide everyone safety though the ongoing period of inactivity. 

“WRU have an HR department who have done a lot of research, put out a lot of articles to all of us, players included, all the staff, around dealing with all sorts of things, from anxiety to sleepless nights, the whole spectrum of mental health,” explained Pivac during a media conference call from his home in Wales on Wednesday.  

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RugbyPass brings you the latest episode of The Breakdown, the Sky NZ rugby programme
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RugbyPass brings you the latest episode of The Breakdown, the Sky NZ rugby programme

“Apart from that we employed at the start of my tenure a sports psychologist who is also a clinical psychiatrist, so he is working on a daily basis with our staff and our players and is available to the whole WRU staff. He is doing a lot of research, doing a lot of one-on-one stuff over the phone, video hookups, those sorts of things. 

“We are giving them [the players] everything we can to get through this period. A lot of it is getting into routines, a lot of it is around goal-setting, a lot of it is around having somebody to talk to as well when you are in tough times and let’s face it, there has been a couple of days where I have picked up the phone and spoken to Dale Thomas, who is our doctor. He has been excellent to talk to, just to bounce ideas off of a lot of the time. It is crucial that they have a lot of information and they know how to get to people if they need to with everything that is going on in their lives in this period of time.”

Pivac paid tribute to WRU officials for making the decision to postpone the round five championship match, going against government advice at the time and ensuring a sell-out match in Cardiff didn’t wind up accused of being a super spreader of the virus in the UK similar how the Cheltenham racing festival and the Liverpool versus Atletico Madrid Champions League football match are now viewed.


“Hindsight is an easy thing but clearly the right decision was made and you have got to remember government were making decisions around that time and the game wasn’t called off at government level so it was left to the decision-makers at Welsh rugby to come up with the decision they did. 

“Clearly they made the right decision and they should be applauded for that. We trained as if the game was going ahead and that is what we needed to do as professionals until we were told otherwise. We were told the game was off and everyone accepted that and what has happened has happened since. The lockdown came in pretty quickly so we are pleased that the game didn’t go ahead.”

The lockdown, though, didn’t prevent some unnamed Wales players from falling ill, but Pivac has confirmed that those affected by the virus are now fit and well again. “I have spoken to all the players from the Six Nations squad individually since the lockdown so I know who is well and who has picked up any sort of illness. 

“There are about four or five players all up. No one has been required to go to hospital. They have had symptoms such as coughs and temperature so they have dealt with that at home and come out the other side of that. 


“What that is telling us is you could be the fittest bloke in the world but this thing is not going to discriminate. It would appear that young, fit athletes can pick it up as older people can, as males versus females. We have been very, very lucky, very fortunate. No one has been seriously ill with the virus.” 


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