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Sport will adapt to post coronavirus world says Humphreys

Sport Re-run: 1999 European Cup Final
Date: Sunday, 24 May Airing: 20:15 BST
Coverage: BBC Two Northern Ireland and BBC iPlayer

Gloucester director of rugby David Humphreys says he is worried about the impact Covid-19 is having on the mental health of players who are struggling to cope with a lack of routine.

Humphreys added that the mental wellbeing and safety of players is “driving all our decision-making and planning” before Premiership Rugby’s potential return in July.

“We are dealing with a lot of young men who are used to a very timetabled, structured week throughout the course of their career,” he said.

“We have to manage that and give them a goal to get back playing.”

The competition has been suspended since 16 March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

With nine rounds of fixtures outstanding, Premiership Rugby hopes to restart the season in the summer, pending government guidance.

Humphreys’ Gloucester are ninth in the Premiership, which was suspended after 13 rounds of matches

“We are all hugely worried about the impact coronavirus is having on the wider world, but from a narrow professional rugby point of view, nobody would have believed two months ago the short-time impact it could have and the long-term impact there now might be,” Humphreys, a former Ulster and Ireland fly-half, told BBC Sport NI’s Sport Re-Run series.

“When you are used to a certain way of life and you preparing for games week in week out, I think we have all taken some time to come to terms with a new way of life – the ‘new normal’ that people talk about.

“The single biggest concern is the health and safety of the players.

“But when you start to talk about the crowds and everyone else around the game, it has an impact on a much broader group of people who look after professional sports.”

Humphreys said the mental wellbeing and safety of the players can be the only barometer to use when deciding when rugby can return.

“We have plans in place to make sure we have adapted to what the new world looks like when government, World Rugby and the PRL (Professional Rugby Limited) who govern the game give us the go-ahead.

“It is hugely difficult but I do know that rugby will survive, sport will survive – and, when the wider health implications of coronavirus are known, rugby will adapt.

“Some day soon we will be back playing the game we love.”