Gerry Thornley on rugby without fans, Phase One sees courses and courts open again

The Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team

A view of people playing tennis at Greystones Tennis Club on Monday. Photograph: Stephen Heaney/Inpho

A view of people playing tennis at Greystones Tennis Club on Monday. Photograph: Stephen Heaney/Inpho

In his column today Gerry Thornley has looked at the pros and cons of playing rugby behind closed doors, and suggested while it is an alien prospect it could help bring about some positive changes. He writes: “As an aside, time was when no team on the planet has ever been so capable of waking the home crowd, and by extension themselves, by provoking a bout of fisticuffs, than Munster at Thomond Park. Past masters at it. But what’s the point if there’s no crowd to awaken?” However he also suggests games played in cavernous empty stadiums - and the eerie, quiet acoustics they would bring - could make it easier for referees and TMOs to police any overzealous behaviour on the pitch. “If a player goads an opponent who has been held up over the line by patting his head or pushing his nose into the ground, while uttering a few choice words in his shell-like, then penalise him. Simple as.”

Phase one of the plan to reopen Ireland began yesterday, which meant the reopening of sporting facilities such as golf courses and tennis courts. The easing of restrictions saw members - providing they live within 5km - returning to play at their beloved courses but under very different rules and regulations. Philip Reid visited Malahide Golf Club on its reopening, while John O’Sullivan observed some socially distanced tennis at Monkstown LTC.

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