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01 May 2020 / Club News

Update from Wayne Pivac

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac held an online press conference from his home this week and answered a host of questions about how he and his coaching and medical team are staying in touch with the national squad during the lockdown.

He was full of praise for the way in which his players and coaches have been helping in their communities and trying to make small differences to as many lives as possible.

Player welfare is uppermost in his mind at the moment and he believes it will take up to six weeks for the players to get ready to play again once they are able to get back to full training.

He’s learned new respect for teachers after attempting some home-schooling of his own and loved meeting everyone in his local community on his daily stroll.

This is what he had to say to the media.

ON BEING IN LOCKDOWN

It started off as a bit of a novelty, but it fell through after about week four. I’m married with two twin 14-year-old step daughters, so I have become a bit of a teacher as well as what is going on with the rugby. There has been some adjustment there, I can assure you of that, and I have a new-found respect for teachers and I guess the sooner they can get back to school the better.

There are a lot of things that are new and challenging. There is a lot of work going on from home because there are a lot of challenging things to consider. It has been a question of getting into a routines and once we did that things have run pretty smoothly for us at home. We set little goals and challenges every day.

ON THE FUTURE

I know as much as everybody else. We are in the hands of the Government aren’t we in terms of how our lives are run on a daily basis, let alone worrying too much about sport as this stage.

First and foremost it is giving back to our communities and then slowly getting back to what we see a normality, although whether we ever get back to 100 per cent of where we were who knows.

CORONAVIRUS CRISIS

I’ve spoken to all the players in the Six Nations squad more than once since the lockdown and know who is well and who picked up an illness. About four or five players had symptoms like a cough or temperature, but nobody was required to go to hospital. They all dealt with it at home and have come out the other side.

What that is telling us is that you can be the fittest bloke in the world, but this thing is not going to discriminate. Young fit athletes can pick it up just like older people can. We have been fortunate that nobody has been seriously ill with the virus.

SUMMER TOUR FIXTURES

They do seem unlikely. As each week goes by that is getting more the case. It is a bit of a challenge, but as players, coaches and management we are preparing as if we are going ahead in July. That means players doing their own training from home until we are allowed to come in.

At least we aren’t falling behind anyone else in the world, because we are all in the same boat, but we are falling behind in terms of the normal training. To get back to playing games we have to get our strength and conditioning to a certain level. As soon as we got wind of the fact that we would all be staying at home we broke our gym down.

We have 40 Olympic bars and all 38 players have got one at home, along with some weights to work with. They have all been given programmes by Paul Stridgeon to get them through. These are adjusted every week.

We are currently in an off-season phase and the players are having a bit of a break. Talking to them the feedback is they are feeling great for having the break. They have had pre World Cup camps, the World Cup and then came back into regional, European and international rugby. A lot of them were feeling beaten up, but they are now feeling good physically and mentally as we head into a pre-season phase.

ON INTERNATIONAL FIXTURES LATER IN THE YEAR

As with the July fixtures, looking later in the year to the autumn, all scenarios are being looked at. No decisions have been made but planning for each scenario is underway.

Every nation will be in the same boat – it’s not that Wales would be singled out or face more games. It would be even across the board with the same preparation for all sides.

That would be something new. From a coaching point of view, and talking to the players, they just want to get back, as everybody does, to some sort of normality. As soon as they’re allowed to train they will.
Speaking to them now, if you asked them to play six or seven Test matches over eight to 10 weeks, then they’d relish the opportunity.

ON THE PRINCIPALITY STADIUM AS A HOSPITAL

It is hard to believe we were playing rugby at Principality Stadium just a few months ago when you look at the transformation it has undergone. It is hugely impressive what has been achieved at the stadium, the NCE and regional grounds across the country to help support the NHS – Its hugely important.

When this is over the Principality Stadium will be an emotional place to return to. Prav Mathema, our head of medical, is involved on a sub-committee talking about what rugby will have to go through before we can train and play again. There are a lot of hoops to jump through. It is a tough time at the moment but I can assure you it’ll be a special day when we do get back to playing there.

ON MEDICAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR A RETURN TO PLAY

These are the questions that are being asked at the moment. What Prav is going through different scenarios. Before we are allowed to get back together there will be certain things we are going to have to do. I don’t know 100 per cent what those things will be, but that’s what Prav is working on. It won’t be a question of going back and simply turning up for training and playing.

One would imagine there will be testing involved because you are asking to stay two metres apart, and to play a game of rugby, and those two sentences don’t go together. There will be something we will have to do to ensure we can go through the rugby process.

ON PLAYER WELFARE

Player welfare is 100 per cent uppermost in our minds. We are having discussions about the length of time we are away from training, which is longer than they would normally be away at the end of a season, so when we do get back together we will need to be very careful in how we work the players so we don’t bring on injury.

What we want to do is make sure that when we come back we can ramp up the volume as we go along. I would imagine it will be five to six weeks, although it will be the Bobby Stridgeons of this world who will put the final figure on it, before we are in a position to play rugby once we are allowed back into full training. These things all add up and it is going to be an interesting return.”

ON REGIONAL AND EUROPEAN RUGBY

There are discussions going on about how this season will look if we get the chance to play the games. There are a lot of ifs and buts and it will all be determined about when we are allowed back to play.

There are broadcasters involved and we need to make sure we are able to provide rugby when we are able to. What is the rugby they want to see? PRO14 play-off games or regional derby matches – there are a lot of different scenarios being looked at.

We would want to conclude the club championship if we could, and no doubt Europe will want to do the same. How that fits in with whatever amount of time we’ve got, who knows, but there are a lot of people doing a lot of work on how the season might finish. It’s not an easy landscape to work through.

ON POSSIBLE LONG-TERM CHANGES TO RUGBY AFTER THE VIRUS

I think we’ve got a great opportunity in rugby to have a look at the global calendar, the global season if you like. It’s something that’s been discussed at different stages – the northern and southern hemispheres have their own views, individual countries have their own view and I guess look at it from their own perspective.
It’s been a very difficult question to answer, but I think what we have now is an opportunity as rugby people to sit down together and to do that. In the past there’s been the northern hemisphere playing rugby while the southern might have been off and vice-versa. It’s tricky to get everybody together and nut these things out. They do take time.

It’s not an easy question to solve, otherwise it would have been solved a long time ago. But I think now we do have that opportunity. I think the game might look a little bit different, certainly in the short term post COVID-19, so I think it’s a great opportunity and I think the global season is probably one we’d all like to see put under some scrutiny and see if we can come up with something that is suitable for both northern and southern hemisphere rugby.

ON MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT FOR THE PLAYERS

The WRU has an HR department who have done a lot of research and put out a lot of articles to all of us, players and staff around dealing with all sorts of things from anxiety to sleepless nights, the whole spectrum of mental health. Apart from that, at the start of my tenure, we employed a sports psychologist who is also a clinical psychiatrist.

He is working on a daily basis with our staff and players. He is doing a lot of research, a lot of one on one stuff over the phone, video hook-ups, those sort of things. We are doing everything we can to get through this period. A lot of it is around getting into routines, goal-setting and having somebody to talk to when you are having tough times. There have been a couple of days there when I have picked up the phone and spoken to Dale Thomas, who’s our doctor. He has been excellent to talk to, just to bounce ideas off a lot of the time.

It is crucial the players have a lot of information and they know how to get to people if they need to for anything that is going on in their lives at this period of time.‚Äč

Wayne Pivac

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