Premiership rugby union will restart with three teams taking a knee

Premiership rugby union will restart with three teams taking a knee

Players from three clubs will take a knee when the Premiership resumes this week as part of the tournament’s new Rugby Against Racism campaign which aims to increase the representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic players on coaching and refereeing courses.

The Harlequins, Leicester and Wasps squads will all make the gesture before their respective matches while others will endorse the Black Lives Matter movement by wearing anti-racism T-shirts and going into huddles. At Sixways, the Worcester and Gloucester players will form a V.

The Rugby Players’ Association has been liaising with a working group of current and former black players at Premiership clubs and endorsed a statement it issued on Wednesday which ran: “As players, we stand together, united in the fight against racism and we are proud to support the positive message that Black Lives Matter. We are not endorsing a political ideology. We are uniting as players to combat racial discrimination in our sport and in society.”

Premiership Rugby said it was committed to making its clubs more inclusive and diverse. It plans to improve the representation of BAME players on coaching and refereeing courses and increase access to the sport for young players with BAME backgrounds and review recruitment practices.

“Improving inclusion is vital for the progress and popularity of our sport and there is an urgent need for change,” said Premiership Rugby’s chief executive, Darren Childs. “I wholeheartedly support the measures set out in our Rugby Against Racism programme, and will be making sure these measures underpin our strategy to make a positive difference in our sport and society.”

The Harlequins and former England captain Chris Robshaw said he recently watched a TV programme which included the Lions second row Maro Itoje that made him appreciate that things he takes for granted others cannot because of the colour of their skin.

“We want to be as understanding and supportive as possible because we want people to have every opportunity they can regardless of the colour of their skin,” he said. “The club is being very proactive. We are going to have people come and speak to us in the future about their experiences and how they feel about prejudices, expanding our minds so we gain a greater understanding. The players here are all in this together.”

The Premiership resumes after a five-month break when Harlequins take on Sale at an empty Stoop. Everyone involved on the playing side at the 12 clubs was tested this week and there were four positive results from 989 samples, one from a player and three from staff members.

There will be a one-minute water break 20 minutes into each half, not because of the heat but because players have to have their own bottles, while referees having admitted they have in the past favoured the attacking side at the breakdown, intend to make it a more even contest.