Two years ago, Sale FC Rugby became National 2 North Champions and were promoted to National One. As we head into our third season in National One, here is a reminder of that Championship winning season.
It has now been 4 months since anyone in the club played any competitive rugby! In those 4 months, there has been plenty of change going on in the background but my update today is solely rugby focused.
The big question is – ‘when can we start playing again?’ As we all know football, cricket and a number of other sports are back on TV but unfortunately rugby will be one of last sports to resume. By its very nature rugby is deemed a high-risk sport, from a Covid point of view, because it is a close contact sport. In particular; scrums, mauls and upright (smother) tackles have been highlighted in experiments as areas of real concern.
The RFU have issued a 6 stage return to rugby road map, below, and we are currently a stage B. As you can see this really limits what we can do at this time as far as training is concerned. When the road map was first issued, it was discussed with the heads of the various rugby sections and all agreed that there was limited value returning until stage C. However, as the weeks have passed we have re-assed our initial decision and have started to return with the senior men testing the protocols we have put in place.
Senior Men’s Team Protocols
Our senior men are back training, and have been now for 3 weeks, but are operating strict protocols as follows;
- Players complete an electronic Covid related health questionnaire that must be returned every Tuesday and Thursday before they train
- All players have their temperature taking when they turn up for training and are sent home if temperature is above an acceptable level
- They must disinfect their hands using hand gel provided before starting training
- Any rugby balls used during the training session are disinfected regularly
- They train in small groups and remain in the same groups at each session
We plan to commence ladies training next week under the same protocols as the men then over the next few weeks allow other age groups to return to play but they MUST stick to the RFU guidelines, which are currently at stage B. Before any age group returns to play we will discuss the return to play protocols with the head coach for the age group and will need to ensure we are confident that we can operate a safe training environment for our players and their families. Under stage B a key consideration will be space as the guidelines only allow a maximum 24 players on a pitch in groups of 6 and each group must be supervised by a coach.
I hope this update helps bring some clarity/comfort that we are regularly reviewing our decisions and want to get back to rugby as soon as we can, provided that we can do this safely!
Below are some of the questions, with answers, that we have been asked over the past few weeks.
Sale Sharks are back training, why can’t we?
Sale Sharks have been back training for a number of weeks now but they are operating under strict protocols, which we have adopted for our senior men. In addition, every player and member of the Sharks support staff is subject to a daily Covid testing at a cost of around £100 per player per week.
Why is Football and Cricket back but not Rugby?
Rugby has been assessed as a high-risk sport due to the amount of close contact and therefore opportunities for transfer of the Covid virus. Scrums, mauls and upright (smother) tackles have been highlighted as areas of particular concern. All Premiership rugby clubs are operating under strict protocols, including daily testing, with a view to the Premiership return on 14th August, provide positive test results are at or near zero.
My son’s friends, who play football, are back training so why can’t we?
As stated before, rugby is deemed a high-risk sport. Returning to training has now started and we will look to get all ages groups back when we can but RFU guidelines MUST be adhered to.
Other clubs are back training and aren’t social distancing?
We can’t speak for other clubs and what they do is at their own risk. As we return to training we will follow the prevailing RFU guidance and put in place the protocols we deem necessary to keep our players and other members safe. The safety of our members is our primary concern.
When can we start playing games again?
This is currently an unknown. As we are only at stage B in the return to rugby road map I expect it will take some time to move through to stage F. The RFU are in regular communication with the Government and they have indicated that the primary driver as we move through the road map will be the level of Covid in the general community/population.
When can we start training?
If you want to start training please speak to the head coach for your age group first who will then discuss with myself and Mark Roberts.
Chair of Rugby Sale FC
Jeremy To’a has put pen to paper and has decided to stay at Sale FC Rugby for another year.
Jonathan Keep said
Jeremy is effective both in attack and defence, so we’re delighted to keep him for another year in Sale. He’s had an injury last season which kept him out of the lineup for a while, but when he’s fully fit, he’s a force to be reckoned with.
In another coup for Director of Rugby Jonathan Keep we will be announcing a re-signing tomorrow morning at 9am. #guesswho
We at Sale FC Rugby are devastated by the loss of a cornerstone of our rugby family. He was a friend to all, a colleague to some and a cheeky gossip to many. I was first introduced to him more than twelve years ago and he immediately struck me as a kind and engaging man who was always smiling. He was as happy chatting with rugby superstars as he was to the kids who did the tours of the AJ Bell, treating them with equal respect and kindness. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends. We are all better for having known you.
President Sale FC Rugby
Steve Smith reminiscing about Bleasy said
He was a pretty good prop but probably not quite as good as the first team prop at the time Fran Cotton. Playing 2nd team rugby and then becoming the person with the most difficult job in any rugby club, 3rd Team Captain. “Bleasy’s Blunderers” as they were known were held together and lead by a true club man who was Sale through and through. He was a genuinely lovely man. We will all miss him.
We have included the announcement today from Sale Sharks.
Sale Sharks are deeply saddened to announce the passing of beloved kit man Alan Blease at the age of 69, following a second short battle with cancer.
Alan, or ‘Bleasy’ as he was affectionately known throughout the rugby community, passed away on Wednesday 8th of July 2020 surrounded by his family. He is survived by his two daughters Beccy and Jo and his three grandchildren, Koby, Chloe and Belle.
Originally a geography teacher at Whalley Range High School in Manchester, Alan joined the club as a 22-year-old in 1973, where he played as a prop for Sale’s 2nd XV before going on to devote his life to the rugby club. He stopped playing in 1990 when he was asked by Fran Cotton to be Chairman of Selectors, a role he undertook with his customary calm organisation until the beginning of the professional era at Heywood Road.
During a career spanning 47 years, ‘Bleasy’ has held almost every position at Sale Rugby Club including Player, Team Manager and most significantly, Head Kit Man. Alan, who was the longest serving kit man in Premiership Rugby’s history, embraced this role alongside his best friend and life-long colleague Robbie Dickson. The pair would go on to reach legendary status at the club and across the rugby fraternity due to their unique friendship, working relationship and commitment to the club and game of Rugby Union.
Alan was not only influential in his role at Sale on a day-to-day basis but in developing the culture that the club prides itself on today, enjoying a fantastic relationship with all staff and players, past and present. ‘Bleasy’ will be dearly missed by everyone at Sale Sharks.
Speaking on behalf of everybody connected with the club, Sharks Director of Rugby and life-long friend Steve Diamond said:
“There are so many meaningless words traded around like ‘legend’ and ‘family’ in this day and age, especially within sport. On this occasion, I can say that Alan Blease is a true legend of Sale Rugby. ‘Bleasy’ was one of the elders of the unique rugby family we possess here at Sale and everybody has their own story to tell about such a great man. I’m sure some of these tales will be revealed over a pint or game of rugby in the near future, but for the moment our thoughts are with Alan’s daughters, Jo and Beccy at this extremely difficult time.”
We ask that supporters respect the privacy of Alan’s family at this time. If appropriate the club will share further details of Alan’s funeral publicly, however if you would like to send any messages of support to Alans family please email email@example.com
As a mark of remembrance, Sale Sharks will hold a minutes silence at our first available home fixture, and the players kit will be emblazoned with Alan’s initials for the remainder of the 2019/20 Season.