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Hands washed and fingers crossed for rugby schedule

After a confirmed Covid-19 case in their academy last week, Munster will hope for a clean bill of health after this week’s tests.

Damien De Allende and Conor Murray in Munster training at UL yesterday.
Damien De Allende and Conor Murray in Munster training at UL yesterday.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Updated Aug 19th 2020, 12:00 PM

AS IF ANOTHER jolt were needed to remind us all that the pandemic has not gone away, yesterday’s 190 confirmed additional cases certainly ought to have provided it.

The figure was issued yesterday hand-in-hand with a muddle of revised guidelines for sport, but no fans is no change for professional rugby’s landscape. This weekend’s scheduled restart for the four provinces can continue as planned… so long as the sport’s testing regime uncovers no more adverse findings.

With another round of PCR testing undertaken in the provinces on Monday, results in Munster will be given most scrutiny after a player in their academy was confirmed to have contracted Covid-19 last week.

That player, who is thankfully now asymptomatic, registered close contact with six team-mates, including one player in the senior squad. and they were also isolated as a precaution.

A scare for another half dozen players anywhere in the island’s tightly-knit professional rugby system would severely undermine confidence in restart plans.

“Everybody was pretty calm,” Munster boss Johann van Graan said yesterday of last week’s unsettling news that Covid had found its way inside Munster’s walls.

“We’ve taken every single precaution, from taking our temperature every morning, training in the indoor environment, taking our social distancing (measures) and cleaning everything… doing everything, every precaution and then all of a sudden it becomes real when one of your players has actually got the virus.

“Then you’ve got to look after your squad and that’s the main thing, look after people. We as a squad spoke it about over (Microsoft) Teams.

“You know, this will probably not be the last time this happens to rugby teams in Ireland, it’s a worldwide pandemic. We’ve all got to just look after each other. Life is more important than rugby, we’ve got to look after each other first. You look at the losses some people have taken. So very much, look after each other and the rugby is pretty much secondary to that.”

As for the young man who contracted Coronavirus, the head coach reports that he is feeling better and enthused by the support he has received.

“He was shocked and the amount of support he received straight away, it’s something that can happen to literally anyone and I think it just emphasises again the unity of a group, we’ve got to look after everybody. 

“So he’s doing well. He’s in self-isolation. He’s in contact with our medical team every day and it’s also going well with the lads in self-isolation, guys that were close contacts.

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“Obviously some of those lads won’t be available for selection on Saturday so we as a group, we’ll just take it day by day.”

He added:

“Like everything, when (positive tests don’t) happen to you it doesn’t seem that close, but if it happens to you then it’s real close to home.

“In terms of preparation we’ve just gone about things like we have and why I can say that’s a very good thing is we’re doing everything in the environment to look after everybody.

“The players have been excellent in the way they’ve cleaned equipment and kept their social distance out on the pitch.

“What we do in our video sessions, taking as little time as possible and we went away from certain things like eating in the building, showering, we’ve moved every possible risk that we can eliminate, we’ve eliminated and then we trust that what we’ve been doing is enough.

“And if somebody then still gets sick then we’re just going to have to handle that situation when it arises.

“But the main thing that we’re all here for is to play rugby and for us as a group the first main objective for this new season was to play on Saturday evening (against Leinster) and that’s still the first objective.

“It’s Tuesday, so four nights to go and hopefully those tests come back negative and then we’ll move forward.”

Fingers crossed.

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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