Concerns are growing for the wellbeing of Cardiff players and officials stuck in South Africa amid reports some squad members are experiencing panic attacks as they wait to discover when they can fly home and commence their mandatory 10-day isolation before next week’s scheduled opening European home game against Toulouse.
Two members of the Cardiff party have already tested positive for Covid, with one case suspected to be the Omicron variant, and plans to fly the rest of the squad home are still dependent on the latest round of testing results. Cardiff were due to depart Cape Town on Sunday but are now under strict lockdown and unable to leave their hotel rooms.
The Welsh government has also not approved a request to allow the players to quarantine in a hotel in Wales which had agreed to accommodate the Scarlets, currently holed up in Belfast having flown back from South Africa, and Cardiff simultaneously. “Those laws are things that everybody needs to abide by and there will be no exceptions to that,” said Eluned Morgan, Wales’s minister for Health and Social Services.
“Obviously we are interested in bringing our boys home. But they will have to come home in the same way that everybody else in this country would be expected to come home.”
Munster have also announced that their latest round of PCR testing identified nine positive results with only those who have returned negative results able to fly home from South Africa. They are due to face Wasps in Coventry on 12 December in the Champions Cup, with European officials having already made clear that clubs unable to raise a team will be forced to forfeit their games.
World Rugby, meanwhile, has approved a far-reaching overhaul of the laws governing the grassroots game with unions being given the flexibility to vary everything from the number of players per side and the duration of the game to the size of the pitch and the laws governing scrums, line-outs and kicking.
A total of 10 new optional variations, with the aim of boosting participation and player welfare, also includes the possible introduction of weight-banding for youth and students as well as lower tackle heights. The duration of games can be as little as 40 minutes, scrums can be reduced to a minimum of five players for 10-a-side games, teams can agree not to contest or lift in lineouts and, if desired, another variation allows for penalties and free-kicks to be kicked to touch only from inside a team’s own half.