Jason Leitch talks rugby and COVID-19 impact on this week's podcast
Scotland’s National Clinical Director Professor Jason Leitch says he is impressed by Scottish Rugby’s proposed phased approach for elite players to resume training in an exclusive interview on this week's Official Scottish Rugby Podcast.
A long-standing rugby fan Jason revealed on the podcast he is a regular at BT Murrayfield for Scotland internationals and enjoys following Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun.
A household name in Scotland in recent weeks, Professor Leitch presents the Scottish Government’s health messaging on television and across the media advising the public on the steps to take to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He attended the recent meeting between the Minister for Sport & Health Joe Fitzpatrick, the SFA, Scottish Rugby and Scottish Horseracing where initial discussions were started around how sport might safely resume.
Speaking on The Official Scottish Rugby Podcast, he said: “It was a very mature, very sensible conversation about what would have to happen, and when, in order to get these sports back. All sports are slightly different in the way they are funded and financed – so for football we had to have a conversation about TV money and gate receipts, how much money is in the bank, what does Brechin do compared to Celtic?
“And then rugby the same, so what would be the plan to get elite rugby back but also what would be the plan to get touch rugby back or schools rugby back or whatever that might look like.
"Those conversations, honestly, are not that different from getting the coffee shops back or the garden centres back, it’s about safety of workers and safety of customers.”
On a possible phased return to players training and the sport resuming through closer liaison between sport and the Scottish Government, Professor Leitch said: “We are really keen to do that and one of the reasons for communicating today (on the Scottish Rugby podcast) is precisely that.
"So I think the individual sector, whether you are oil and gas or Scottish Rugby have a responsibility to do some of that work themselves, to look across the world and see what’s happening in New Zealand or what’s happening in Dubai and think about what the best practice might be.
"Then the Scottish Government has a responsibility to say here is the high level guidance, here is what we think it required for safety, for public health and eventually we’ve also got a responsibility to give you times for that, we can’t do that yet, but eventually we’re going to have to do that – it’s then your responsibility to link those things together.
“I think rugby and other sports will have to think what that looks like and I was very impressed with the plan, the provisional draft plans your guys came with to that meeting last week covering five stages."
Professor Leitch also spoke about the importance of allowing the public to take exercise outdoors during the recent lockdown for both the physical and mental health benefits to society as a whole.
He had a direct message for Scotland’s rugby clubs and its players and coaches at this uncertain time and hinted at a gradual loosening of the lockdown restrictions.
He added: “The clubs are going to have to be patient. I don’t have a great answer for them I’m afraid. We will absolutely do it as quickly as we can (allow sports to resume) and it will clearly be staged so individual training outdoors will come back before scrums.
“Now from today, people can individually train. They can go out and train, go to the park and train and they can run, and they can cycle. Gradually that will increase, and you might be able to train with people outside your own household so that will be another development over the next few weeks, I hope. That would mean that you could bring people together.
“Then the next one might be that you could travel to train. That would be a big step for grassroots rugby. So that would mean that you could travel to Scotstoun to train as a team – still individually, still physically distanced and with alcohol gel on the way in and out. Maybe not using the changing rooms for a while.
“So you can see how that would gradually step you towards in the next few months to contact. Contact is not going to happen next week.”
To hear the full interview with Professor Jason Leitch, which includes his views on the Autumn internationals, download The Official Scottish Rugby Podcast on Wednesday afternoon.
Scottish Rugby’s Director of Performance, Jim Mallinder also makes his debut on The Official Scottish Rugby Podcast this week.