The recently formed pan-Canadian working group consisting of representatives from Rugby Canada and the Provincial Rugby Unions has held multiple sessions to continue their work outlining the next steps of the Return to Play strategy. All members agreed that player welfare, at all levels, is the highest priority and therefore the objective is to bring rugby back safely in a phased approach.
The working group will produce a single Return to Play strategy that each Provincial Union can utilize. This will include a selection of recommended activities, both training and game variations for competition, for each Provincial Union and their member Clubs to deliver that corresponds to each stage of their Provinces’ Medical Health Officer’s orders and restrictions. The plan will also include resources for Clubs/Coaches to follow to ensure these activities are delivered safely, appropriately and follow the recently released guidelines from World Rugby. The working group will endeavor to deliver the plan no later than June 30.
The working group has split into breakout sub-groups to determine what rugby activities are appropriate for each step of the Return to Play process. The sub-groups are comprised of representatives from the Provincial Unions who specialize in each area. The breakout groups will focus on designing in-person activities that can take place under each phase, with the following areas of focus:
- Education: for coaches and officials.
- Training for Minors: for local clubs, regional Unions or Provincial Unions.
- Training for Adults: for local clubs, regional Unions or Provincial Unions.
- Club Competitions: non-contact and low-contact game variations for intra-club and inter-club competitions.
- High Performance: training and competition for targeted athletes by Universities and Provincial Unions.
- Communications: messaging the various steps to Unions and the rugby community
The Return to Play Plan will detail the planning, operational and communication steps that will need to take place before, during and after rugby activities resume. A key objective of these processes will be to demonstrate all rugby leaders are taking a prudent and thorough approach to resuming play. With Provinces across Canada at various stages of reopening, the working group acknowledges that the Return to Play plan needs to be developed quickly to avoid delay for those Provinces that are further ahead with loosening public health restrictions.
Once the working group have finalized the Return to Play plan, the next steps will be:
- Review and discussion of the plan by Rugby Canada and Provincial Rugby Unions
- Rugby Canada Board review and approval
- Lifting of the national suspension on sanctioned rugby activities
- Note: It is anticipated that play will not resume uniformly across all Provinces at the same time. The decision on when to return to play will be made individually by each Provincial Union, with notification made to Rugby Canada.
- Each Provincial Union, when safe and permitted to do so, aligns their Provinces’ stage of eased restrictions with the appropriate phase of the Return to Play plan
- Provincial Unions gain approval for activity from the appropriate authorities in their Province
- Member Clubs formally apply for approval and sanctioning of activities with their Provincial Rugby Union (Note: sanctioning will be expeditious for activities aligning with the Return to Play plan)
- Final approval of applications provided by Provincial Union and access to registration platform provided by Rugby Canada
In addition to the working group, Rugby Canada hosted a meeting with the national insurance broker on May 28th, attended by all Provincial Executive Directors and Board Chairs. The objective moving forward will be to ensure due diligence with regards to risk management for all involved in rugby across the country. An updated participation agreement and liability waiver will be part of the registration process moving forward, and further updates will be provided to the Canadian rugby community as available.
For additional information, please refer to the below Q&A:
Q. Our Provincial government has said sports can resume. Can we start playing rugby?
A. No. Both Rugby Canada and the Provincial Unions need to approve Return to Play plans and then sanction any planned activities. You may also need your local municipality to open fields and permit rugby activities to resume, and all participants will first need to register.
Q. New Zealand has started playing rugby. Why can’t we?
A. Rugby competition is scheduled to resume in New Zealand under heavy restrictions. New Zealand is unique in that widespread community transmissions of COVID-19 have not been experienced. Rugby in New Zealand also operates under a different insurance structure than in Canada.
Q. My local municipality has asked for us to submit a plan. What do I tell them?
A. Your Provincial Rugby Union, in partnership with Rugby Canada, will be providing this to your club for use. Please contact your Provincial Union and let them know of any key information that the municipality is asking of you and any deadlines that they should be aware of.
Q. When will you have an approved Return to Play plan?
A. The Return to Play Working Group is targeting having this plan no later than June 30.
Q. When will registration be available to Clubs to begin registering players, coaches and officials?
A: All categories, other than social, will remain closed until a Return to Play plan is approved by the Rugby Canada Board, each Provincial Rugby Union’s Board and your Club’s Board. Registration will then open within a day or two.
Q: If we’re not able to play contact rugby, are there other membership categories available?
A: Yes. Rugby Canada has non-contact player categories available at lower rates. Should contact rugby be permitted at some later point in the membership year, players will be able to upgrade from this non-contact category.
Q: If we successfully complete the World Rugby COVID-19 Learning Module, will that be sufficient for us to resume playing rugby?
A: No. While this is a valuable resource provided by World Rugby, the Return to Play plan and the steps outlined above must be followed in order to return to play in Canada.
The full ‘Return to Play’ working group is comprised of:
- Aaron Takel – (Rugby Development Manager (M&B), BC Rugby)
- Alana Fittes – (Volunteer Coach, Rugby Alberta)
- Annabel Kehoe – (CEO, BC Rugby – Group Chair)
- Bailey Andrews – (Rugby Development Officer, Rugby New Brunswick)
- Braedan Willis – (Social Media Coordinator, Rugby Manitoba)
- Brendan Kowal – (Director – Player Representative, Rugby Manitoba)
- Chris Assmus – (Education Manager, BC Rugby)
- Curtis Lauzon – (Technical Director, Rugby New Brunswick)
- Dalton Finkbeiner – (Communications & Marketing Coordinator, Rugby Ontario)
- Darcy Patterson – (Rugby Development Manager (W&G), BC Rugby)
- Dean Murten – (UBC Women’s Head Coach & NCCP Coach Educator, BC)
- Dustin Hopkins – (GM Rugby Performance & Operations, Rugby Canada)
- Emma DeLory – (Rugby Development Officer, Rugby Nova Scotia)
- François Ratier – (Executive Director, Rugby Québec)
- Graeme Moffat – (Technical Director, Rugby Alberta)
- Jack Hanratty – (Provincial Lead & Head Coach, Rugby Nova Scotia)
- Jackie Tittley – (Training & Education Manager, Rugby Canada)
- James Voye – (Director of Rugby, PEI Rugby)
- Jamie Levchuk – (Managing Director, Events & MarComms, Rugby Canada)
- Jean-Louis Berthet – (Manager of Referee, Rugby Québec)
- Jocelyn Barriau – (Women’s Rugby Head Coach, Concordia Stingers & Provincial Coach, Rugby Québec)
- Joe Schissler – (Manager of Competitions, Rugby Ontario)
- John Long – (World Rugby Coach Educator, Rugby Alberta)
- Jordan Astrope – (Executive Director, Saskatchewan Rugby)
- Kevin Rouet – (Head Coach, Université Laval, QC)
- Meaghan Howat – (RC Player Rep & Athlete Services Manager, Gryphon Athletics, ON)
- Myles Spencer – (CEO, Rugby Ontario)
- Nathan Abdelnour – (Referee Development Manager, Rugby Canada)
- Patrick Ryan – (Executive Director, Rugby Manitoba)
- Paul Connelly – (High Performance Manager, Rugby Ontario)
- Paul Hunter – (Director of Development, Rugby Canada)
- Peter Houlihan – (Rookie Rugby Manager, Rugby Alberta)
- Ryan Jones – (Rugby Development Manager, Rugby Ontario)
- Sam Edmonds – (Director of Men’s Rugby, Rugby Nova Scotia)
- Sandy Nesbitt – (Past-President, Rugby Alberta)
- Scott Manning – (Men’s Head Coach, Castaway Wanderers of Victoria, & Canada U18 Boys Asst. Coach, BC)
- Shaun Thompson – (Director, Marketing & Communications, Rugby Canada)
- Simon Blanks – (Technical Director, NLRU & Dogs RFC)
- Stéphane Hamel – (Président, Rugby Québec)
- Tim Hockin – (Teacher & WR Referee Educator, Rugby PEI)