The French Government is set to announce that all athletes who wish to compete in France will have to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
That means that only players who are vaccinated will be able to travel to face Catalans and Toulouse when Super League starts next month.
Government sources have told news agency AFP of the restrictions, which contradicts the recent announcement from Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu that certain events would be exempt.
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) January 17, 2022
A new vaccine pass will require anyone wishing to enter sports grounds and stadiums, including fans, players and staff, will have to be vaccinated.
Reports state the government has indicated that exemptions will not be made athletes who are based outside France.
COVID France and Super League
Exact figures of vaccinated players remain unclear, with the RFL previously setting a threshold of 85% for the return of scrums.
Salford coach Paul Rowley estimates that the average Super League squad is running with nine or 10 players that are not fully vaccinated.
It is thought that between 80 and 85 per cent of top flight players are double-vaccinated.
That could mean clubs having to send weakened squads over to face last season’s Super League league leaders Catalans and newly-promoted Toulouse.
The ever-changing COVID situation means it remains unclear just how long any restrictions might be in force.
Huddersfield are due to travel to Toulouse for the season opener on February 12, with Wakefield away at Catalans the following week.
Champions St Helens, Warrington and Wigan are all due in France before the end of March.
Some clubs have in recent weeks come out to say they will not sign players who are not fully vaccinated.
Wakefield chairman Michael Carter said: “A player’s vaccination status now has a major impact on recruitment – it’s one of the key things we are looking at here as a club before we commit to a signing.”
Carter has revealed that six of Trinity’s 33-man squad have so far refused the vaccine.
The vaccination of sports stars has been thrust in to the spotlight by the controversial case of tennis star Novak Djokovic.
The French Open is held in Paris in May, while France will play home games in the Six Nations rugby union championship in February and March.
The RFL are due to meet with Catalans and Toulouse on Tuesday to discuss the latest developments.
A further meeting is being held with Super League clubs on Thursday on the wider COVID issues.