Sale Sharks have issued a stark warning to their players that their selection and potentially even ‘future employment’ with the team may be at risk if they refuse to have their Covid vaccinations.
Alex Sanderson, Sale’s director of rugby, is looking to clamp down on any virus disruption at the club, and has laid out the consequences should his squad decide against taking up their jabs.
Earlier this week, it was revealed Premiership sides will be able to relax some of the coronavirus restrictions currently in place as a reward for ensuring that 85 per cent of their players and staff have been fully inoculated.
The division begins again this weekend after its summer break, and the loosened measures would see masks no longer compulsory and social distancing – which has been in place for more than a year – could also be dropped.
And Sanderson, as revealed by The Telegraph, has said that Sale are close to the 85 per cent threshold. However, he also admitted that the club must still ‘follow up with a number of people for their second jab’.
As part of this process, the ramifications have been explained, which may impact on their spot in the team and overall role at the club.
Sale Sharks’ director of rugby Alex Sanderson has warned his players to get their Covid jabs
Premiership clubs can relax restrictions if 85 per cent of players and staff are fully vaccinated
‘To start with, we’ve tried to educate them as best we can,’ Sanderson said. ‘Our doctor has sent numerous emails regarding rumours surrounding negative effects and the positives of having the vaccine.
‘These are doctors. They are ethically-bound to give the correct information.
‘Still, it is a choice. But the consequences of them not having it are not being able to travel, not being able to play in every arena if vaccine passports come in. Even though they’ve got rid of that [idea], it might come back in. You never know.
‘The knock-on effect of that is that it could be detrimental to selection and therefore future employment. That’s the reality. We haven’t sugar-coated it. We’ve been brutally honest.
Sanderson told Sale’s players that their selection and even ‘future employment’ may be at risk
‘If your stance on it is that strong, we will respect it but that’s a discussion that we will have down the line depending on the consequences of [players] not taking it. We’ve left it to them, given them all the information and said: “It’s your choice”.’
As it stands, Sale would therefore have to ensure that their protective measures against Covid-19 are still in place ahead of their opening fixture against Bath.
English rugby union’s Professional Game Board (PGB) had announced that clubs in the men’s top tier, second-tier and the women’s Premier 15s tournament would all be encouraged to fully vaccinate their squads.
Until now, teams have been instructed to follow minimum standards criteria, which made the wearing of masks indoors, and occasionally outdoors, compulsory. These rules were introduced for the return to training last summer.
There is a two-week period after the final dose before a player is viewed as being fully inoculated, and the Rugby Football Union also stressed that the vaccines must have been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
Sale are close to the threshold but must follow up with a number of people for their second jab
Chris Booy, chairman of the PGB, said the crackdown around vaccinations has been implemented so that clubs are able to ‘proactively contribute as much as possible to the safety of our wider communities’.
He said: ‘The health and safety of everyone involved in the elite game is our priority and we know it is vital we ensure the vast majority of players and management are fully vaccinated as soon as possible.’
While also emphasising that the choice for players and staff is still very much a ‘personal one’, he added that the body ‘strongly encourage as many players and staff as possible to be vaccinated’.
The testing protocols currently in place, which will see players have a minimum of two lateral flow tests every week, are not expected to change, meanwhile.
Gloucester head coach George Skivington has said his club are on course for widespread vaccinations, and that he expects restrictions to be removed soon.
Gloucester head coach George Skivington said his club are set for widespread vaccinations
‘Every single staff member and player has had their first vaccination at least,’ he said. ‘We’ll be 85 per cent next week, and then 100 per cent within a couple of weeks.
‘The boys, to be fair to them, it’s all their decision. They have all bought into it and as a group decided they want to be as safe as possible.’
At Bath, director of rugby Stuart Hooper has opened up on his club’s efforts to reach the 85 per cent mark, and revealed that they are ‘close’.
‘Obviously there are a number of factors which affect how quickly you can get there, one being the age of the squad – the younger the squad are, the later they could get their first vaccinations, he added.
‘And obviously Covid infections is another thing, because if you’ve been infected you can’t get another vaccination for 28 days.’
Bath’s director of rugby Stuart Hooper said they are close to meeting the 85 per cent threshold
England international Henry Slade said he is sceptical about the rollout and won’t have his jabs
There have been instances in the past of players from the Premiership caught breaching the Covid-19 protocols.
Jonathan Joseph and Elliott Stooke, as well as Wasps hooker Gabriel Oghre, were hit with bans by the Rugby Football Union for breaking the rules.
All three appealed the decision, after it was revealed that Stooke and Oghre stayed at Joseph’s house for a number of hours, but were ultimately unsuccessful.
England international Henry Slade has revealed he is sceptical about the vaccination rollout, and told The Telegraph that he would not have the jabs.