Work must come first for part-time players in quarantine dilemma

The RFL will make an announcement in the coming days about how the change in quarantine rules may affect Toulouse’s participation in this season’s Championship.

Feedback from other clubs has been collated about how the early season may be impacted, following the recent Government announcement that players returning from France would need to quarantine for up to 10 days.

With the majority of players in the Championship part-time, it’s created a fresh headache for rugby league ahead of the big kick-off.

CONTEXT: Concerns grow over Toulouse’s Championship place after quarantine rule change

It remains unclear too how it will affect Toulouse when they travel to the UK, with their first game scheduled to be at York on Easter Saturday.

London are set to be the first visitors to France on April 18, before Featherstone travel on May 1 and Widnes on May 8.

Widnes coach Simon Finnigan said: “First and foremost, for some of these guys their main job isn’t rugby. I don’t know whether they will be able to take 10 days off for quarantine or whatever it is.

“It will be up to them. I won’t be putting pressure on them to make a decision that would put their job at risk. It’s a really difficult one. I’m glad we’re not the first away trip to go over there.

“The RFL has got a really tough job because it’s not their decision, they’re guided by the government. I think someone’s going to be upset whatever the answer.

“I wouldn’t have a problem with any player who couldn’t make the trip. How that would affect the squad if we had a handful and we couldn’t put a team together, then we’d cross that bridge when we got to it.”

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The change in Government guidelines came as a blow to both the RFL and Toulouse, who had been working extensively alongside Catalans and Super League to ensure their participation in the league was as smooth and efficient as possible.

Those plans included matching up fixtures so that flights could be shared for both the French clubs, and the English clubs heading in the other direction.

While the guidelines don’t impact on full-time players, who are still able to train within their bubble during quarantine, it has a major impact on part-time players going to work.

York coach James Ford said: “It will be a really tough situation. I used to be a college teacher and getting a couple of days off to go to Toronto or Toulouse with ample notice wasn’t ideal but I worked around it.

“Going back to Toulouse in the play-offs at short notice was a challenge. I had to offer to do other things for the college to get that time away.

“I wouldn’t fancy asking my former boss, ‘Can I have 10 days off because we’re going to Toulouse?’ Multiply that by the 25 people that would go, it would be an immense challenge.”

When the guidelines were announced last month, the RFL acknowledged the challenges it would pose and said that they had written to clubs for their feedback.

The issue was discussed at a meeting of Championship and League 1 clubs today, Thursday.

Following that meeting, an RFL spokesperson said: “There are specific challenges around the involvement of Toulouse Olympique in the Betfred Championship following the latest changes around quarantine for elite sports teams returning to the UK from France – and an announcement about the impact on Toulouse’s early-season fixtures will be made in the coming days.”

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