New rules could see unvaccinated Ireland players unable to face France in Six Nations
Ireland are set to face Les Bleus in Paris in the second round of the championship.
New Covid-19 restrictions and requirements were announced by the French government on Monday night, and it should have a direct impact on the 2022 Six Nations.
In a further effort to fight against the spread of the virus, Emmanuel Macron’s government has announced new rules that included mandatory full vaccinations professional sportspeople in France, from January 15.
All sports stars in France that want to stay active in their chosen fields must show a vaccination certificate if they are to enter stadiums and arenas of play. The previous rule stated that a Covid passport [proof of vaccination or recent negative test] was admissible, but the French government are now pushing to get as many possible vaccinated.
A spokesperson for the French sports ministry told The Times that it would be confirmed 'within days' whether proof of full Covid vaccination would be required for teams visiting France from abroad.
Should the French government request visiting teams to only bring fully vaccinated players and athletes to the country, it could see several that have not opted for vaccines [due to medical considerations or personal choice] being left at home.
This could, then, directly impact Italy, Ireland and England, who are all scheduled to take on France in Paris during the 2022 Six Nations.
Ireland rugby stars' high Covid vaccine uptake
If the French government decide to impose this new rule on visiting sports teams, the disruption for Ireland would be minimal. Back in October, the IRFU stated that there was a 99.2% uptake on Covid vaccinations across professional players under their remit. A statement, at the time, read:
'The IRFU confirm that the current vaccination rate across our professional team structures which includes players, coaches and support staff is 99.2%. This includes a small number of people who are awaiting a second dose.'
We have already seen the French government intervene, earlier this month, to prevent their Top 14 sides from travelling to the UK for Champions Cup fixtures. This led to five fixtures in round two of the Champions Cup pool stages being postponed.
An England RFU spokesperson says the union is monitoring the situation but 'will always follow government travel advice'.
In France, approximately 98% of professional rugby players are vaccinated while that figure is around 95% for footballers in the country. That figure is higher, in both sports, than is the case in England, where, earlier this year, Exeter centre Henry Slade spoke about his mistrust of the vaccines.
Under the new set of Covid rules in France, spectators at outdoor sporting events will be limited to 5,000 from January 15 until the situation is reviewed later in 2022. At present, Irish sporting fixtures have an outdoor capacity cap of 5,000 until January 30 at the earliest.