THE IRISH Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has issued a statement following the Ireland team’s decision not to take the knee ahead of their Six Nations opener against Wales.
As the two teams lined up ahead of kick-off last weekend, an “anti-racism” message range out over the Tannoy system at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
During the "moment of reflection" preceding the game the Irish and Welsh players remained standing rather than take the knee in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
It followed similar scenes in the match between England and Scotland at Twickenham, where 14 of the 30 players involved chose not to take the knee.
Speaking exclusively to the Irish Post, an IRFU spokesperson has sought to clarify Ireland’s stance.
They were keen to stress that the IRFU and all of Rugby is united against racism, as part of the Rugby Against Racism campaign, which players have been supporting for many months now.
The IRFU noted that it has been the tradition in rugby to stand for a moment of silence as a mark of respect – and this mark of respect is used for example to thank frontline health workers, to remember those that have passed away, or to mark important historical events.
The added that players are free to stand (as is tradition) or kneel (if they wish to) for the Rugby Against Racism moment, and the choice is entirely up to the players.
“In line with our approach during the Autumn Nations Cup there was no request to take the knee,” they said.
“It is important that players are free to demonstrate their support for this important issue in the way they see fit. It is an entirely personal decision and we respect each players’ right to make that choice.”
“Irish Rugby and our players have been supporting anti-racism messaging for some time,” the IRFU continued.
“Ahead of the resumption of professional rugby, last year, rugby underlined its on-going commitment to offering a game for all, with messaging and support through #RugbyAgainstRacism across the returning Guinness PRO14, the Autumn Nations Cup, the 2020 Six Nations and now, again, before the 2021 Six Nations games.
“This united support against racism ensures that we stand shoulder to shoulder with everyone on this issue. The feedback on these moments has been very positive.”
Ireland are due to face France at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium this Sunday.