Duncan Smith: Rugby but not as we know it

When is social distancing not social distancing?

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont revealed the optional rule changes. Picture: PA Wire

When is social distancing not social distancing? For most rational thinkers a rugby scrum involving 16 people would be one obvious answer.

The World Rugby optional guidelines for safe return to play amid the current health crisis propose these to be limited to just one with no re-sets, with a free-kick to follow if, for example, the scrum collapses. In an ideal world this would probably gratefully welcomed by rugby supporters who in recent years have grown increasingly frustrated with tedious passages of endless resets with the match-clock on standstill.

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We are all desperate to see sport and, more importantly life in general, return to some normality and there are now some glimmers of hope, with English Premier League football to restart on 17 June a few days after rugby in New Zealand returns.

There has been noticeable public anger recently about anything which suggests a “one rule for some, another rule for others” policy.

So no hugging grandchildren, no travel beyond five miles to see much-missed friends and family, remain two metres apart… but a football tackle or rugby ruck should be fine with a bit of tweaking?

The SRU has made no official comment on the World Rugby proposals but sounding out union sources, there is clear scepticism over the need for law amendments which essentially amount to rugby, but not as we know it.

The mood seemed to be that rugby will return when it is deemed safe to do so,and not before.

In which case these law changes will not be necessary, though the hygiene measures proposed including spitting, strip changes at half time, ball sanitisation and the like may become a part of the “new normal” for a while to come when, let’s hope, we get some rugby to enjoy once again.

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