Coronavirus: Asia Rugby hopeful of return to action in second half of year

The governing body for the game on the continent were among the first to cancel events because of the pandemic

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 28:  Douglas Langley, Series Director, HSBC Rugby Sevens Series, Qais Al Dhalai, Secretary General - UAE Rugby Federation, Chairman - Arab Rugby Federation speaks to media during the Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens Press Conference on November 28, 2018 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
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Asia Rugby are hopeful players will be able to return to rugby in the second half of this year.

The governing body for the game on the continent were among the first to cancel events because of the coronavirus pandemic.

They announced at the start of March that all their competitions would be suspended until the end of June at the earliest.

It meant the postponement of all Asia Rugby Championship competitions, including the UAE’s tour to Sri Lanka for Division One, which had been scheduled for the end of last month.

It remains unclear if it will be possible to reschedule the fixtures, but Qais Al Dhalai, the Asia Rugby president, said they have not given up on the prospect of it happening.

“We were the first region, back in March, to cancel all our activities for the first half of the year,” Al Dhalai said.

“We cancelled the first half of the year, but we haven’t cancelled the second half of the year. That would be very premature.

“We don’t know what is going to happen, so why would we block unions from playing rugby? Let’s keep it open. That is what we are doing now.”

After being re-elected as chairman of World Rugby at the weekend, Bill Beaumont said he would not be celebrating as there was "work to do" in returning to playing after the pandemic.

“We are tackling Covid-19 and must implement an appropriate return-to-rugby strategy that prioritises player welfare, while optimising any opportunity to return to international rugby this year in full collaboration with club competitions for the good of players, fans and the overall financial health of the sport,” Beaumont said.

"I am determined to ensure that the spirit of unity and solidarity that has characterised our work in response to an unprecedented global Covid-19 pandemic, is the cornerstone of a new approach that will deliver a stronger, more sustainable game when we emerge with new enthusiasm, a renewed purpose and an exciting future."

The return to play strategy is based on the pandemic being “under control by way of treatments, vaccines, rapid testing kits widely available, temperature control, track and trace systems”.

There will also be a consideration for the time players need for training and conditioning ahead of the restart of leagues and international competition, as well as air traffic and travel pricing returning to normal.

“We have told our member unions we are still monitoring the global health situation,” Al Dhalai said.

“We will update them by the end of May. We are working closely with World Rugby to establish the return to play methodology.

“We want to see if there is a way to return to play. Let’s wait and see.”