Mon | Nov 30, 2020

Benzwick cagey about rugby-union return

Published:Saturday | November 14, 2020 | 12:06 AM
York Castle’s Serena Walcott (left) holds onto the ball while being taken down by August Town Pink Pumas’ Alexis Dawkins in their Jamaica Rugby Football Union tournament held at the GC Foster College of Physical Education and Sport on Saturday, January
York Castle’s Serena Walcott (left) holds onto the ball while being taken down by August Town Pink Pumas’ Alexis Dawkins in their Jamaica Rugby Football Union tournament held at the GC Foster College of Physical Education and Sport on Saturday, January 13, 2018.
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Jamaica Rugby Football Union (JRFU) Chairman Jerry Benzwick says it will be difficult for the sport to resume locally in a bubble style of play.

Benzwick says that the sport of rugby union has resumed internationally, but the JRFU must be mindful that COVID-19 is transmitted through fluids and contact, and that the association must meet the health requirements of the Ministry of Health and Wellness to reduce the chances of jeopardising the security of their players.

“I was the one holding up any return to play, because the safety of our players is my most paramount concern,” he said. “It is a very touchy subject, because rugby is a full- contact sport, and we don’t have the resources in place right now to put players in a bubble to play domestically. So, it would have to be a case where everyone says they would play despite the risks, but still incorporate the necessary protocols such as testing, temperature checks, and sanitisation, because, the truth is, everywhere else in the world is playing rugby.

“The fact that they have restrictions on gatherings is one of the main reasons why we haven’t engaged in our return yet. I thought some of the restrictions would soon be lifted. However, I think everybody is now recognising that COVID-19 will continue until we find a vaccine, or we figure out how we can live with it like the common flu.

“But, it will never be like the common flu, because it is a high-risk infectious disease and we have to be careful. There are many factors to look at and I have been looking at them, and, for the most part, I am hesitant to do anything that would compromise the safety of our players. But, I am a little bit over that now and I’m looking forward for us to push for our return to play.”

Benzwick said that World Rugby has handed down measures and suggested ways for the JRFU to operate and return to play safely by requiring each rugby union club to have certified COVID-19 managers.

Mona Titans Rugby Club coach Conroy O’Mally said that, if rugby union should resume in a bubble setting, the contact nature of the sport and the fear of spreading COVID-19 would be minimal, because testing can be easily monitored in such an environment.

“It’s going to be a heavy task as Jamaica is not a professionally played country in terms of rugby, and I do foresee where a bubble would be expensive,” he said. “At this point, I don’t think we as rugby union clubs should take on that as a challenge, but if it is supported from a national perspective, then maybe it could work, but not from a club perspective.

“Rugby is not a professional sport in the Caribbean, and the players and coaches would have to fund for themselves, and if we should put them in a bubble, it means that we would have to take care of their responsibilities financially.”

Athena Clarke