Salford’s Ian Blease keen to introduce increased testing following COVID-19 outbreak

Ian Blease wants more regular testing to be introduced in light of the COVID-19 scare that plunged Super League into crisis.

Blease, the Director of Rugby and Operations at Salford, has been dealing with the repercussions of the outbreak at Hull FC.

Salford took on the Black and Whites on Sunday and on Tuesday, six Hull FC players and two members of their coaching staff tested positive after being tested on Monday.

That has resulted in Blease being concerned about the well-being of his own club’s staff who were in contact with the Black and Whites, with 11 forced to self-isolate after the RFL’s highlighted them as being in close contract on their track and trace system. However, the club has told everyone who was at Headingley to quarantine as they err on the side of caution.

Blease, who was philosophical following the news, believes the concern needs to result in a review of the current procedures in place, in particular when it comes to testing.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing and we’ve done an exceptional thing to get back playing,” Blease said.

“But we’ve gone on a line of testing once a week being suffice but this has highlighted that we need something more substantial in place.

“I think we had it pencilled in to test 48 hours before and that changed for whatever reason. Looking at it now, I think we need to say twice per week and one 48 hours, maybe 24 hours before a game if it can be turned around in time to make sure we have a more covered approach. That costs more but if we have to find the money then so be it, I’m sure I’ll get the backing of every club because safety is more important than anything.

“It’s not a case of bagging anyone, that’s the furthest from the truth, but this is one occasion where we can step back now and say together as a game we need a more enhanced process.”

In the meantime, Blease is looking to organise additional rounds of testing for his players and staff which can enable them to come out of isolation and back into training as soon as is safe.

“We had testing the morning after the game and the results all came back negative, but we want to put a regular regime of two tests weekly for the next 14 days. The safety of players and their families is more important than playing games.

“What I need to know is if they all come back negative again what happens, are they free to return? If they keep producing negative results can I stand them down?

“The medical advice, it’s new, isn’t it? We’re all learning every day, it’s judge it how you see it and I want to err on the side of caution, there’s just a few questions we need to work through regarding testing and training, with one eye on the future we still have to play Sky games, we know the sport is at risk and we will do everything we can to, but we just need some guidance from the governing body, and the protocols to be reiterated.

“Hopefully with a bye in the Challenge Cup we get the 14-day isolation so it should only affect one game but it doesn’t give us much time to prepare before the Leeds game. With the welfare hat on it’s not really adequate but what can we do? We’ll speak with the group and the welfare officers, if they can accelerate anything with enhanced testing, that would be great.”