Players preparing for the final round of pool-stage action at the World Rugby U20 Championship 2023 in South Africa came together on Tuesday to take a collective stance against doping.
As part of Keep Rugby Clean Day, all 276 players representing their nations in Cape Town and Stellenbosch donned distinctive t-shirts during their warm-ups in a show of support for World Rugby’s anti-doping awareness programme.
World Rugby launched Keep Rugby Clean in 2005 and it has supported players and team management across the game ever since.
The programme aims to deter doping by educating participants on the responsibilities, raising awareness of doping risks and fostering an ethical clean-sport ethos.
England captain Lewis Chessum, whose side head into the third round top of Pool B, believes the programme plays an invaluable role in maintaining clean sport and helping players make the right choices.
“Keep Rugby Clean is an extremely important initiative for our sport,” he said. “The programme protects clean participants and gives us a level playing field to compete.
“We are given the information and advice needed to train, compete, and recover safely in line with the rules. It’s important to stay up to date and informed to be able to perform in a safe environment.”
As part of an extensive programme prior to the start of this year’sU20 Championship, all participating teams were required to complete online and face-to-face education, delivered in their native language.
“We are all aware of the importance of keeping rugby clean and this campaign by World Rugby is vital in protecting the integrity of our sport and ensuring a level playing field,” South Africa captain Paul de Villiers said.
“The players are educated about and are willing participants in World Rugby’s anti-doping education and awareness programmes.”
Japan captain Kengo Nonaka added: “I’d had only limited exposure to anti-doping within university rugby in Japan, so I undertook an anti-doping course ahead of the U20 World Championship.
“My experience with the anti-doping programme at this year’s tournament has taught me that as a rugby player, I need to pay close attention to what I ingest into my body.
“It’s a hugely important part of being a professional athlete and developing as a model rugby player into the future.”
World Rugby work closely with the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA) and national anti-doping organisations to deter intentional doping behaviours and avoid accidental doping.
"As a squad we're delighted to take part in World Rugby's Keep Rugby Clean Day,” Ireland captain Gus McCarthy said. “The World Rugby U20 Championship is all about the future of the game we all love, and to showcase and highlight such an important message on this stage is a really great initiative.
“As young players, we are constantly learning, both on and off the field, and it's imperative we understand the values of our sport and maintain its integrity."
Italy second-row Alex Mattioli described how the programme had impacted positively on his own career. "Before playing for Italy U20 I knew almost nothing about doping," he said.
"But after starting this programme of awareness a new world opened before my eyes: for example, thanks to that I was able to deny a couple of medics not involved in rugby prescribing me wrong meds, thanks to what I had learnt about reading medicine labels.
"So, thanks to World Rugby, thanks for teaching us about the risks related to our health and for the risks related to our career."
Georgia fly-half Petra Khutsishvili added: “Today is a very important day because every rugby player must be fair and clean. Doping kills fairness and I think in rugby everyone must be equal in their physical preparation.”
For more information on the Keep Rugby Clean campaign please go to www.world.rugby/keep-rugby-clean