DUBLIN (Reuters) - Training offers some normality to Ireland’s rugby players amid the COVID-19 pandemic, captain Johnny Sexton said on Tuesday after tough new restrictions were imposed on the country at the start of the week.
“The most normal thing we're doing at the moment is rugby training. We don’t have to wear masks, we can be around each other outside,” he told a news conference as Ireland continued their build-up to their Six Nations clash against Italy in Dublin on Saturday.
“That’s always the time we feel most comfortable and it’s even more evident now, running out on the pitch is the most normal life gets."
Ireland announced some of Europe’s toughest COVID-19 constraints on Monday, shutting non-essential retail, limiting restaurants and pubs to take away service and telling people not to travel more than five kilometres from their home.
“It’s worlds apart, isn’t it? Everything is different,” Sexton said when asked to compare the current situation with the last time the Irish team got together in March before the pandemic was declared.
“We’re living together essentially in the same bubble, but we still have to maintain social distance at dinner, so we’re only three at a table, queuing two metres apart. All the restrictions that apply outside essentially apply to us as well.
“It’s not like normal camp, but we’re slowly getting used to it. Look, we’re very lucky and privileged to be able to do what we love to do, which is to get a chance to represent Ireland, to be together and be able to do our job.”
Ireland remain in contention for the Six Nations title despite losing their last game to England at Twickenham in February but need a convincing result on Saturday.
“We need to win the game first and foremost. That’s most important because it could come down to points difference and bonus points. That will come later in the game, but we need to try and win the game first,” Sexton added.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Toby Davis)