UpFront: Covid’s worrying staying power

Given the worrying proliferation of the new coronavirus variant, it’s perhaps just as well Rugby League is out of season.

But with the 2022 campaign getting ever closer, it’s crucial the game’s governors take the opportunity to learn from the various sports which are currently taking place.

There have been problems in the rival code, particularly for Cardiff, who had to field a far-from-first-choice side against European Champions Cup visitors Toulouse in the wake of their ill-fated trip to South Africa, from where omicron emerged, for a United Rugby Championship game.

And in football, next year’s Challenge Cup final hosts Tottenham have had two matches postponed following a Covid outbreak among the squad, and London rivals Queens Park Rangers one.

High on the agenda for our game is reviewing and, if necessary, tightening up protocols within clubs to minimise the chance of an outbreak and consider how best to deal with one if it happens.

Then there is the management of matchdays, given the requirement under the government’s much-publicised ‘Plan B’, which takes effect from Wednesday, for fans 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 games.

Hopefully the suggestions that vaccines are effective against omicron are correct – for the good of the population first and foremost, then for the continuation of activities, such as sport, albeit within certain criteria.

Confirmation by the Rugby Football League that the target of 85 percent vaccinated players by December 31 which would facilitate the return of scrums, initially in Super League and the Championship, can only help mitigate the risks posed by the coronavirus resurgence.

Meanwhile, hats off to Kevin Sinfield on the news that his Extra Mile Challenge charity run, inspired by his mate Rob Burrow, has now raised more than £2 million for motor neurone disease research.

That’s 20 times the initial target for the 24-hour, 101-mile trek from Leicester Tigers, where he is defence coach, to his old club Leeds Rhinos.

Motivated by Sinfield’s latest fundraising initiative, Wigan supporter Martyn Clarke is showing his mettle by undertaking an equally daunting challenge of completing seven half-iron-man triathlons in seven days.

Leeds Rhinos, along with Sale Sharks, are backing his bid to repeat the trio of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile cycle ride and half-marathon run every day for a week.

The remarkable effort to boost the coffers of the MND Association began on Saturday.
Visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/martyn-clarke7for7im to donate.

The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.