Wales fly half Dan Biggar says the prospect of the Six Nations being forced behind closed doors by the spread of the omicron Covid-19 variant would be “a huge, huge step backwards” for rugby.
Since Boxing Day, all sports matches have been played behind closed doors in Wales after restrictions were brought in by the Welsh government. By contrast on Monday, Biggar played in front of 72,785 fans at Twickenham in Northampton’s 41-27 defeat by Harlequins.
In spite of the loss, Biggar relished the occasion and hopes the full houses are allowed to continue with the start of the Six Nations now five weeks away. “It would be great if we could have fans, wouldn’t it?” Biggar said. “You see what a difference it makes to an occasion. You saw it in the autumn, getting crowds back.
“Everyone coming to games now has to have a passport, they’ll be double or triple-jabbed, and it’s an outdoor event so I don’t see why they wouldn’t be allowed in. As long as it’s safe that’s the most important thing. It would be a huge, huge step backwards if there are no crowds moving forwards for clubs and the Six Nations which is obviously such a show-piece event.”
On the varied responses to the pandemic pursued by the different administrations, Biggar said: “I am just relieved to have signed for a club in England. I think the rest of the lads in Wales are pretty frustrated with it. We are probably getting into different things with politics now but I think everything should be aligned. I hope for an event like the Six Nations and for the game up and down the UK moving forward we get some sort of sensible outcome. As long as everyone is safe and double jabbed then I think it makes sense to keep crowds in.”
The entire 2021 Six Nations was played without crowds as well as the vast bulk of the 2020-21 domestic season and the Lions tour to South Africa. While television spectators gradually got used to the empty stadiums, Biggar says the lack of supporters had a noticeable impact on the quality of matches.
“We played a lot of games afterwards with no crowds but if you look at the first handful of games they almost felt like training games,” said Biggar who starts for Northampton against Saracens in what will be close to a full house at Franklin’s Gardens on Sunday. “It felt like it did not really matter whether you won or lost because it felt like a training match and like the intensity was knocked out of it.
“I think you would have seen a different game against Quins if the stadium would had been completely empty. I think you would have seen a lack of intensity at certain moments whereas even when the quality slightly dropped today the intensity was still there. That comes massively from the spectators on an occasion like today with 70,000.”