The Scotland and British and Irish Lions medic Dr James Robson has admitted “in hindsight” the Scotland versus France Six Nations match at Murrayfield last month should, perhaps, not have taken place.
The clouds of the coronavirus crisis in Europe were gathering from the weekend Scotland beat Italy 17-0 in Rome on 22 February but, despite other matches in the championship being postponed, the Scottish Rugby Union and tournament organisers pressed on with the match on Sunday 8 March which attracted thousands of French fans to Edinburgh and was played in front of a capacity 67,000 crowd.
“We took advice. The best advice we could have in collaboration with the government at the time,” said Dr Robson. “It felt the right thing to do, subsequently things have changed, knowledge has changed.
“Sport has closed down, and mass gatherings have now closed down but you can only operate on the guidance you are given at hand and certainly put in all the mitigating factors you were recommended at hand at the time by the World Health Organisation and the government.
“We had sanitising stations. We were putting out public health messages. In hindsight, you might say ‘should it have gone ahead or should it not?’ But at the time that certainly felt the right thing to do.”
The first person to die from Covid-19 in Scotland was an elderly French rugby fan, who was suffering from cancer and was in the capital with his two sons for the match.
Fit, young rugby players are not immune to this global threat, as was made clear six weeks ago when one of the Women’s international squad contracted the virus while in northern Italy for the subsequently postponed match in Legnano, near Milan.
Dr Robson confirmed that the player, who is believed to be recovering well, is not the only Scotland international to have been hit by the Covid-19 virus.
“If you look at the population in general and the spread of infection... I am aware of one or two of our players who have had the Covid-19 illness,” said the doctor.
“Currently we have got a reasonable state of health but we have been monitoring that closely.
“So far, there have been some female members of the squad that have ended up in hospital, which is an unfortunate place to be. There are two aspects of the virus that I was telling the boys that they were relatively safe because they were younger but they take such a toll on their immune systems with that amount of training they do that makes them doubly exposed. But I did say that because they were younger than 60 unlike me they would be less exposed.”