Six Nations issues statement on ‘fighting racism’ following row over players not taking a knee

Six Nations organisers have issued a statement in the aftermath of the debate around players taking a knee before the Calcutta Cup clash at Twickenham.

Some players stand and others take the knee ahead of the Six Nations between England and Scotland at Twickenham. Picture: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images

Scotland recorded their first away win over England since 1983 but have faced a backlash after only four of their players took a knee during “a moment of reflection” before the game.

The Scottish Rugby Union insists it stands firmly behind the fight against racism and that it remains down to individual players to decide how they show that support in future.

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Six Nations Rugby, the body that runs the Championship, takes a similar stance and issued the following statement: “Six Nations Rugby and its participating unions are united in fighting racism.

“Ahead of the Championship a decision was made that we would continue to mark this with players taking a moment of silence and an on-screen message ahead of the national anthems.

“In line with our approach during the Autumn Nations Cup, there was no request to take a knee.

“It is important that players are free to demonstrate their support for this important issue in the way they see fit.

“It is an entirely personal decision and we respect each player’s right to make their choice.”

As well as the four Scotland players – Ali Price, Jonny Gray, Chris Harris and Cameron Redpath – 12 members of the England squad also kneeled before the match.

No players kneeled before the other Six Nations matches – Italy v France and Wales v Ireland – at the weekend.

The “moment of reflection” at Twickenham was also to commemorate those who had died during the pandemic and former England international players who had passed away in recent weeks, including their ex-captain, John Pullin.

The SRU is planning to hold another “moment of reflection” when Scotland host Wales on Saturday, and head coach Gregor Townsend said it has been left “100 per cent” to his players to decide if they will make any further gesture.

He told BBC Radio Scotland: “We obviously stand against any racism and discrimination in our sport.”

The SRU said in a statement: “Scottish Rugby fully supports rugby’s ongoing work to end discrimination and racism in our sport.

“This commitment has been expressed with a moment of reflection before every international match since the summer of 2020 and our players are free to demonstrate their support for this important issue in the way they see fit.”

While it has become commonplace for footballers to take the knee before all domestic and international fixtures, there has been no such uniform approach within rugby.

Ahead of their matches in the Autumn Nations Cup, the Scotland players joined in a “moment of reflection” aimed at supporting not only the fight against racism but also offering thanks to the NHS and frontline workers for their efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The mix of players standing and kneeling at Twickenham on Saturday sparked fierce debate on social media.

Motherwell and Scotland international footballer Tony Watt tweeted: “Taking the knee ain’t stale troops. It’s literally 2 seconds before a game to show we are against racism. I hope it was a mix up but racism is never ok.”

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