Former England National Rugby Union Captain Tony Diprose only joined Canford School in January as head of sport, so the temporary closure of the school and the ramifications of sport for the future are a thorny subject.
Tony, who won 10 full caps for England, and who has a reputation as being one of the most talented footballing forwards of his generation, signed for Harlequins from Saracens in 2001. He retired at the end of the 2005/6 season and joined the coaching staff at Harlequins as the academy manager.
“Joining Canford has been a baptism of fire, but I have really been enjoying it,” he said. “I am waiting to see the government plans as to how sport, particularly contact sports such as rugby could be restarted. The RFU are also looking into it, and of course the professional level will be handled differently because of resources.”
He said that possibly tag rugby – a non contact team game in which each player wears a belt that has two Velcro tags attached to it – could be phased in.
“We have a duty of care so at Canford we must do what is best for the pupils.”
In addition to rugby, pupils at the Dorset school enjoy a huge range of sporting activities including athletics, cricket, golf, hockey, netball, real tennis, rowing, swimming and lacrosse.
“If we’re not able to play rugby in September, we could play summer sports such as cricket and tennis, but this would have to be evaluated,” Tony added. “We will be looking at what is happening in other parts of the world, and seeing how they are returning to normal.”
He added that he considered sport and exercise were crucial for pupils’ physical and mental health.
During the closure of the school pupils have been set weekly programmes and challenges. This includes the NHS run or walk 5km challenge, whereby participants are asked to run 5km, donate £5 to the NHS and nominate five more people to do the same.
Although rugby is Tony’s passion, he said he had always been interested in other sports, and during his career he has worked to develop young athletes.
As far as England rugby is concerned Tony said that not being able to finish the season had financial implications.
“There are deals with TV companies and so the money would have to be refunded.
“Rugby is not as prosperous as football,” he said.
He also acknowledged that the suspension of sports has had huge implications for local sporting clubs.
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