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The RFL Board is allowing time for more players to be double vaccinated against Covid-19 and the Omicron variant impact to be assessed; A final decision on the return of scrums is now set to be taken at the end of January

Last Updated: 23/12/21 11:42am

The RFL is delaying a final decision on the return of scrums for 2022

A final decision on the return of scrums for the 2022 rugby league season has been pushed back to the end of January as the RFL Board allows more time for Covid-19 vaccination rates to increase and the impact of the Omicron variant to be assessed.

Earlier this month, the governing body’s board had supported the RFL Laws Committee’s recommendation scrums, suspended as part of the sport’s return to play measures during the pandemic to reduce close contacts, be brought back for next season.

However, that would only be the case if 85 per cent of players across both Super League and the Championship were double vaccinated against the virus by December 31. As it stands, 80.66 per cent of Super League players are double vaccinated, while the rate in the Championship is currently 81.71 per cent.

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Those figures are only just below the current double vaccinated rate for the entire UK population aged 12 and over (82 per cent), but with the RFL’s threshold unlikely to be met by the end of the year and the Omicron variant now circulating, confirmation of the return of scrums will wait until the eve of the new season.

“The RFL Board share the view of the Laws Committee and the wider sport, that the return of scrums is desirable, especially with a view to the World Cups in England at the end of 2022,” RFL chief regulatory officer Karen Moorhouse said.

“However, we have to balance this with the potential risk of transmission in scrums and of scrums leading to individuals having to isolate as close contacts and the consequential impact on the ability of clubs to field teams.

“Currently everyone in a scrum would be deemed a close contact and therefore if there was a positive case within 48 hours of a match, any unvaccinated players who had been in a scrum with the positive individual would be required to isolate for 10 days.

We recognise this delay is far from ideal for coaches and players as they prepare for the 2022 season with ongoing uncertainty – but in a rapidly changing landscape this is the appropriate and responsible course of action as things stand.

RFL chief regulatory officer Karen Moorhouse

“In addition, the emergence of the Omicron variant since the last Laws Committee meeting has clearly changed the landscape in terms of transmissibility and the efficacy of double vaccinations – increasing the risk of positive cases and leading to a new focus on the importance of booster jabs.”

Like their Australian counterparts in the NRL, the RFL has stopped short of mandating vaccines for players in Super League or the Championship. However, state mandates mean NRL players who are not vaccinated will be unable to enter stadiums in Queensland or Victoria next year or enter New Zealand.

The RFL has, however, urged clubs to advise unvaccinated players their decisions are having a material impact on all others, and on the nature of the 2022 competitions, given the majority support of players and coaches for the return of scrums if possible – a facet of the game endorsed in the 2021 RFL Supporters’ Survey too.

The advice goes on to state all players are being encouraged to have a booster jab as soon as possible too for their own health, that of other players and for the effective running of the competitions.

“We have not mandated vaccination, but we have worked with clubs to encourage their players to do their part, both for the sport and in the national battle against Covid-19,” Moorhouse said.

“Considerable progress has been made over the last couple of months, with some clubs setting an outstanding lead in terms of vaccination rates, and now boosters.

“We recognise this delay is far from ideal for coaches and players as they prepare for the 2022 season with ongoing uncertainty – but in a rapidly changing landscape this is the appropriate and responsible course of action as things stand.”



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