The France Women’s team are to travel to Dublin to complete the final fixture of the 2020 Women’s Six Nations, after it emerged that isolation requirements for elite athletes returning to Ireland had put the game in doubt.
Irish Government guidance for elite and high-performance athletes and teams who travel back to Ireland from a country which is not on the travel Green List, is to restrict their movements for 14 days, aside from sporting activity such as training and competing.
The France Women can travel to and from Ireland without restriction as there is no requirement from the French Government to isolate on return to the country.
This is not an issue for the Ireland Men’s team who, as full-time professionals, remain within a strict high-performance ‘bubble’ on their return from away fixtures.
However, as the Ireland Women’s team members are amateurs, it is not possible for many of them to commit to isolating for 14 days following a return from the match, if held in France, as they, understandably, have responsibilities to their families and employers, some of which are in the teaching and medical communities.
The IRFU, fully appreciating the players’ commitments, had, over the past weeks, discussed the implications of the travel guidance with Sport Ireland and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sports and Media to explore if a derogation on the guidelines was possible, as the players are operating in a highly controlled high-performance ‘bubble’.
It was confirmed this week that such a derogation from the guidelines could not be granted. The IRFU understood and fully accepts this decision.
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne said: “We are extremely grateful to the French Federation and their Women’s team for this superb act of solidarity with the Ireland Women’s team and IRFU. To experience such generosity of spirit is uplifting and goes to the very heart of what the sport of rugby, and the Six Nations, is all about.
Over the past weeks, we were in regular contact with Sport Ireland and the Expert Group on Return to Sport regarding a possible derogation for the Women’s national team from the established guidelines. With Ireland entering a level 5 lockdown, we fully accepted the decision not to grant a derogation on the travel restrictions for elite amateur athletes.
“I wish to thank the French Federation and their Women’s team on behalf of all involved in Irish Rugby for their decision. We now look forward to hosting the French Women 15s and the fixture here in Dublin, and both teams can get back to concentrating on rugby.”