Martyn Williams: Wales games behind closed doors would be ‘surreal’ – BBC South East Wales

Martyn Williams (right) succeeded long-serving Alan Phillips as national team manager in January as Wayne Pivac’s reign began in earnest

Wales team manager Martyn Williams says it will be “surreal” for international players if they have to play behind closed doors in the autumn.

The strategy is one of those being considered to minimise financial problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Playing an international with no crowd will very be strange,” said Williams.

“But if that’s what the government insists on to maintain safety, everybody has to work with that.”

Former flanker Williams, who won 100 Wales caps, is hopeful the severe restrictions would only be for a limited period if needed to get the sport going again after the Six Nations ground to a halt in March.

The postponement of Wales’ summer dates in New Zealand and Japan now appears a formality.

World Rugby is considering a variety of fixture options, with or without crowds – some of them cutting out travel between northern and southern hemispheres – to cope with whatever public health and global travel restrictions are still in place by the autumn.

“If that’s what it takes initially, that’s how it is. We know it’s not going to be long-term, just a short-term fix,” Williams told BBC Sport Wales.

“But particularly on a home international day in Cardiff when the city lights up, that would be surreal to have nobody there.”

Where would Wales play?

Restrictions of 200-300 people in stadiums have been discussed for professional sport with players, coaching and medical staff, match officials, safety officers and broadcasters, in contrast to the usual crowds of 74,000 in Cardiff.

If the Principality Stadium is still being used to house the Dragon’s Heart NHS hospital, that could entail internationals being staged on other professional grounds with broadcast facilities.

“We’re not sure where we would play; could we play at the national stadium because of the temporary hospital set up there?

“There’s lots of discussions as to where and how many people it would take to put a game on,” Williams said.

“It’s just in limbo at the minute.

“But I watched one of the (football) Champions League games just before lockdown, PSG against Dortmund and it was really strange watching on TV without any crowds.”

Strange or not, it could be the ‘new normal’ whenever the Wales squad are permitted to emerge from their individual lockdowns, and Williams says the uncertain schedule will have to balance the game’s financial crisis with the players’ capabilities after their lay-off.

“[The pandemic] puts sport in perspective, you just want to get back to normality as healthy and safe as possible.

“Some players will benefit [physically] from the break, but you have to be careful you don’t throw a lot of international matches straight at them.

“It’s a huge balancing act because the game’s going to take a huge financial hit. Organisations, sponsors and broadcasters want to see games as soon as possible, but it’s difficult from a player’s perspective to turn out week in, week out.”

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