How Covid will affect Boxing Day friendlies on and off the pitch

Scrums are on course to return in the New Year – but won’t be used in the three Boxing Day challenge matches.

The game has been played without them since the coronavirus-enforced suspension of the 2020 season.

As an area of increased contact, scrums were replaced by a handover of possession to reduce the risks posed by Covid.

Their return, initially in Super League and the Championship, on the condition of meeting a threshold of 85 percent vaccinated players by December 31, was approved in October.

With that figure on course to be met, clubs in the game’s top two divisions have been informed that they can include scrums in training.

The RFL hopes to clarify the situation soon, which is likely to mean that scrums could return in pre-season games in the New Year.

The governing body has also been in touch with both the government and clubs in a bid to clarify the implications of the introduction of ‘Plan B’ measures to limit the spread of the omicron Covid variant, which come into effect last Wednesday.

Rugby League fans are facing the potential prospect of having to prove their vaccination status or produce proof of a negative lateral flow test within 72 hours of the event, in order to attend certain matches.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said documentation will be needed for entry to any event hosting more than 10,000 overall (sitting and standing), or any outdoor venue with more than 4,000 standing spectators in attendance.

The Boxing Day meeting between Leeds and Wakefield at Emerald Headingley is set to be impacted although other pre-season matches could have their attendance figures capped to avoid being impacted by the rules.

Sources suggest the governing body is optimistic that the elite sporting exemption for overseas clubs will remain in place, therefore allowing Catalans Dragons and new Super League club Toulouse Olympique to operate in the same way as English-based teams.

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