Back when full-contact was still allowed, before the COVID-19 outbreak, Langley Rugby Club player Thomas Maki carried the ball through a wall of Richmond players at one of several Alumni Day matches in 2019 at the club field on Crush Crescent in Langley. (Langley Advance Times file)

Langley Rugby Club welcomes return-to-play plan

‘It might not be the sport as we know it’ club chair warns

Word that a phased-in return to play has been approved was welcome news for the Langley Rugby Club, which, like all rugby organizations in B.C., has been idled by the coronovirus pandemic and the need to maintain social distancing.

On Tuesday, July 7, BC Rugby, the provincial governing body of the sport, released their ‘Return to Rugby’ plan and announced existing restrictions would be eased, very slightly.

There are five phases to the plan, with phase two launching with the roll-out of the plan.

Maximum rugby gatherings will go from 10 to 50 people, and total time allowed at rugby events will be extended from 45 to 60 minutes.

Inter-club or contact activities are still banned, and physical distancing of two metres must be maintained at all times, with rugby balls as the only permitted shared equipment.

The next phase, expected to begin in September, would see some “small-sided, non-contact games” within clubs and additional shared equipment, the announcement detailed.

Players would be allowed “brief, limited breaches” of social distancing, getting within one metre of each other.

Regular full-contact play is not expected until there is an effective treatment or vaccine for COVID-19.

READ ALSO: VIDEO: ‘Respect All, Fear None, Expect Victory.’ Langley Rugby celebrates 50th anniversary

“Rugby is coming back but it’s up to all of us to make sure it’s brought back in a safe and responsible manner,” said BC Rugby CEO Annabel Kehoe.

“While we won’t be returning to full-contact rugby for the foreseeable future, we’re excited to support clubs delivering modified training before progressing to non-contact rugby, like touch and flag rugby.”

Langley Rugby Club chair Brian Anderson said the club will be reviewing and implementing the new rules.

““It might not be the sport as we know it,”” Anderson told the Langley Advance Times, noting the restrictions on full-contact are a big change for a sport known for its physicality.

Older players, especially, may find it hard to break full-contact habits, so Anderson expects the initial return to the field will probably involve younger players.

“We’ll focus on player development at the younger ages, because they’ll probably respect social distancing,” Anderson commented.

He doubts there will be any kind of competition against other clubs in 2020.

“We won’t be playing this year,” Anderson predicted.

“That was my gut feeling.”

He was optimistic about the long-term prospects of the non-profit club, which celebrated it’s 50th anniversary last year.

“We’ll make it through, but there will be some skinny times,” Anderson commented.

Unlike many clubs, Langley Rugby happens to own it’s own playing field, at 21280 Crush Crescent, unlike other clubs which have to pay to play.

“We are fortunate that we own our own grounds.”

Since the Langley Rugby Club was founded in 1969 , it went on to purchase and develop the playing field that has been the club home for almost 30 years.

Before the pandemic hit, the club ran several teams including minis (5 years and up), junior boys and girls, women, and two squads of senior men.

Over the years, Langley Rugby Club has won several league and provincial championships and many Langley Rugby players have gone on to play for regional, provincial and national teams.

The club motto is “Respect All, Fear None, Expect Victory.”

READ ALSO: Rugby the way it used to be: Langley club alumni remember

Under the BC Rugby plan, clubs will be required to complete the World Rugby COVID-19 courses and appoint one or more COVID-19 Safety Coordinators.

Until further notice, BC Rugby will require participants in any in-person rugby session to complete an attestation that they do not have COVID-19 and have not been in contact with a confirmed or possible case within the previous 14 days.

Formally known as the British Columbia Rugby Union, BC Rugby is the governing body for the sport in British Columbia and represents over 7,500 individuals in 60 member clubs and associations in the province.

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