"You’d wonder if they’ll have to scrap the whole season" - Jack Carty 5 months ago

"You’d wonder if they’ll have to scrap the whole season" - Jack Carty

"The way the season ended so abruptly, in some ways it almost feels like this must be what retirement is like.

"You're used to seeing lads on a day-to-day basis," says Jack Carty, "and suddenly it's just finishes."

Many rugby players today have struck the right balance so the game is not the be-all and end-all, but even those men and women will be finding the recent cessation of training and games a weird one to get their heads around. Most are still training and keeping on top of matters - doing their home-work from clubs too - but staying at home for long tracts will take some getting used to.

When the Coronavirus pandemic first disrupted the European rugby season, it was the odd game getting postponed. We then had whole leagues and championships put on hold and now, several weeks since the virus first arrived on European shores, there is the very real prospect of the 2019/20 season being put to bed with many unresolved issues.

"We don’t know what’s going to happen," Ulster scrumhalf John Cooney told Baz & Andrew's House of Rugby. "[Matches] don’t look likely at the moment but it would be great for Ulster, because in the position we’ve been in all year we’ve been going well. So I was very optimistic with us, in Europe and the PRO14, of how we could do."

There is hope that the season can be resolved quickly, later in the year, even if it means the 2020/21 season is eaten into. That, of course, is providing that medical experts can help the wider world get a handle on this particularly brutal virus. Even so, when rugby returns the games may be played out in empty stadiums for a stretch.

"You don’t really know how it is going to go," says Connacht and Ireland outhalf Jack Carty.

"Like I know for us (at Connacht), we’re obviously stood down for eight weeks. That’ll bring us up to May, or that. With the way that messaging has been around it, it seems it’s going to be that and maybe a bit longer. I’m sure that whatever decision they will make, it will be something that will be in the best interests of players and fans’ well-being.

"But, yeah, I’d say at this moment in time, you’re probably not going to be looking at games until July, August. And if it’s not then, you’d wonder if they’ll have to scrap the whole season."

While there are reports of English club sides struggling to get their players to agree to pay cuts, the IRFU and Rugby Players Ireland reached a pay deferral agreement that will see most players on this island have their pay packets cut from anywhere between 10 and 50% until rugby can return to full swing.

"If you think about it," Carty reasons, "the IRFU lost out on the Italian game so however much was involved in that, between €5 and €10 million lost there in cash-flow, and then the provinces, obviously, may not have any games between now and September. They'll be hoping for some games in the summer but it's a quite an extended period of time for nothing to be coming through the doors. In fairness, they've been looking after their staff quite well and the way they've went about it is to be commended."

At present, there would be a strong argument for Leinster to be awarded the Guinness PRO14 title were the season to be wrapped up later in the year without any more games being played. The EPCR would be pressing for the Champions Cup to be completed and it would take three weekends to do that.

Qualification for next season's Champions Cup may be determined on the current league standings so Connacht would get a spot. That is a possible silver lining, but Carty acknowledges that the current Connacht squad could have played their last game together.

"There's a few lads that will be finishing up - some of whom have come out and said they'll be finishing - so I know that. Obviously we'll have to replace them with new fellas coming in.

"There's a good few academy lads coming through, as well, but it's a difficult one for the IRFU and Connacht in terms of cash-flow and stuff coming in. And they've to look to the new stadium that they're trying to build in the future. It's about striking the balance between strengthening the squad and the long term ability of the business.

"I'd love to get a few more new lads in. We don't have the same depth as the other provinces but we've always been able to punch above our weight in that respect. It's about keeping lads fit and hopefully we can add a bit of quality on top of that."

For now, though, Carty, Cooney and the country's rugby professionals are doing their bit like so many of us across the island - simply by staying at home.

Carty was speaking with SportsJOE as part of the Tackle Your Feelings #ImTakingControl campaign and is encouraging people to be supportive and avoid trolling or scaremongering when using social media.

For more information on Tackle Your Feelings follow the @tyf Instagram account or visit the website here.


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Barry Murphy and Andrew Trimble are back together (but staying apart) as they host the latest House of Rugby from their houses. The lads are joined by Ulster and Ireland scrumhalf John Cooney. They talk about staying positive during wild times, the pay deferral agreement made between Rugby Players Ireland and the IRFU, and chat movies too.