Here are some of the stories that are making headlines on Saturday, January 8.
Six nations facing new threat
The Six Nations is facing a new COVID threat, with reports suggesting that players who refuse vaccinations could be effectively barred from some matches.
Wire are reporting that a rule change is being pushed by UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, which would end the special exemption currently given to elite sports stars.
Currently, non-spy players returning to the UK from abroad can break their 10-day isolation to train and play in matches with their team.
But according to the paper, Doris wants to put an end to this and ensure athletes are treated like any other member of the public.
The news will send shock waves through a raft of sports, including the top Premier League football clubs playing in the Champions League and Europa League. They will be unable to select unvaccinated players in the days following their return to the UK.
The Telegraph says rugby will also be affected, “Six-nation matches and European club games will be the first to be affected by any rule changes.”
They cite the case of England star Henry Slade who revealed last year that he was not vaccinated.
Players may be forced to miss training, thus ruling them out from upcoming matches.
It is currently unclear how this will affect Wales, or which players, if any, will be hit.
Wales sets its own policy regarding health, but has generally followed UK government rules regarding travel restrictions throughout the pandemic.
Wales began their title defense against Ireland in Dublin on 5 February, before hosting Scotland the following weekend.
France has three home matches and Italy has two matches in the tournament. The rule change will also have a knock-on effect for players returning from Test matches abroad, who then join their club or regional sides.
The newspaper quoted a UK government source familiar with the discussion as saying: “If you want special treatment you have to do your job. Getting vaccinated is not just about you, but others.”
The news is hot after Australian authorities barred world number one tennis star Novak Djokovic from entering the country to defend his Australian Open title in Melbourne.
The Six Nations are already facing turmoil as Wales are not allowed fans in the Principality Stadium and Scotland are only allowed 500 fans at Murrayfield for their games.
The WRU have explored the option of moving their home matches across the bridge to England, where supporters are allowed. Eddie Jones’s England will have more than 80,000 sells for their Twickenham games.
Drakeford understands Wales looking at alternative to England
First Minister Mark Drakeford says he has no problem with Wales seeing every option open to him ahead of the Six Nations.
The WRU is exploring the possibility of holding home games across the bridge in England to continue the meaningful crowd shut-out in Wales to generate income.
The integrity of the 2022 tournament is threatened with significant restrictions in Wales, Scotland, Ireland and France, while England and Italy are able to host capacity crowds at one of the sport’s most partisan events.
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has been suggested as a possible venue for Wales’ games should the ban on fans continue into February and March, while Sir Ian McGeechan says the WRU should move to Coventry’s Rico Arena, home of the Wasps needed.
Emphasizing the restrictions for the time being, Drakeford said: “I make no criticism of the WRU for exploring all the options that are available to them.
“They are a business and as a responsible business I feel like they are bound to see all the different possibilities that lie ahead of them.
“Whether they would choose to move on and play the game elsewhere with the undoubted risks, were we still in the eye of the coronavirus storm, I think is a very debatable question.
“But do I have a problem with them judging by the options available to them, no, not me.”
Alun Wynn battles with DuPont for the prize
Wales and Lions captain Alun Vin Jones is on the shortlist for the World Rugby Awards.
Vartan Lock is among the nominees for the Rugby Union Writers’ Club Personality of the Year for 2021.
Among his rivals is France star Antoine Dupont, world rugby player of the year.
He has emerged as one of the most exciting talents in the game by redefining the role of scrum-half through his electric running, strong defense and impeccable decision-making.
However, after leading Wales to the Six Nations title and then showing remarkable powers to return from a shoulder injury and captaining the Lions in South Africa, Alun Wynn will have his supporters as well.
Also on the shortlist are Pacific Islands rugby campaigner Dan Leo and rising England star Marcus Smith.
Second in line Zoe Aldcroft and head coach Simon Middleton, who has helped England Women win 18 games, represent the Red Rose on the six-strong list.
The winner will be announced later this month.
Folau is back – and as good as ever
Controversial former Wallabies star Israel Folau is back in rugby union after a three-year absence.
Folau was down to make his debut for Shining Arcs Tokyo-Bay Urayasu in Japan’s rebranded Rugby League One.
He was named at 15 for a clash with the Kobe Steelers.
Once one of the best players in the world, Folau’s image was tarnished in 2019 when he circulated homophobic views and was sacked by Rugby Australia.
After spells in rugby league with the Catalan Dragons and Southport Tigers in the Queensland Cup, Folau returned in a 15-a-side game – and we’re being told his talent hasn’t reduced a quota.
Former Australia teammate Liam Gill, who also plays for Shining Arcs, was quoted as saying Mirror : “Izzy has started from where he left off. I have to say once he plays this season of Japanese League One, he will again be considered one of the best in the world.
“He hasn’t really left anything behind in his leisure time.”
There is also the possibility that Folau will play in next year’s World Cup, but in Tonga’s color under rugby’s new eligibility laws.
He has signed a two-year deal to play for Shining Arcs, which will lead him to the 2023 tournament.