Former Munster back row James Coughlan says that with France in lockdown, none of the Irish players or coaches there know when any restrictions will be lifted.
Coughlan, a coach at ProD2 club Provence Rugby, said that employees of all professional rugby clubs in France have been placed on chômage technique, a government unemployment payment scheme.
Employees will receive between 70% and 84% of their wages through this scheme after they were all placed on partial unemployment die to the coronavirus pandemic.
Coughlan says all of the staff at Provence Rugby were laid off until further notice last week. “We’re all on the dole basically. Everyone was put on chômage — it’s the same for everybody,” said Coughlan.
“All the professional teams in France are the same, every team in the Top 14 and ProD2. The league’s money comes from Canal Plus but there are no matches on Canal Plus. Money also comes from supporters going to matches, but there are no matches.
“In Provence Rugby, we’re backed by a company called Voyage Privé and obviously a voyage company isn’t doing any business at the minute. The president called us all in on Friday to say that everybody was put on chômage technique and that will be it for the foreseeable future.
“We are still getting emails saying exactly how much we are getting, how it’s going to work going forward. It’s awful to be honest.
“You don’t imagine it in rugby that you’re going to be called in to a meeting to put on the dole.
“Everyone has a story about how it has happened to them, but this is very different because nobody knows now long it will go.”
With rugby and all sport shut down in France, Coughlan is confined to his apartment in Pau, where he finished his career as a player and launched his coaching career three years ago.
Severe restrictions have been put in place by the French government and anybody leaving their residence has to download and fill out an official form stating their business and present it to the police if asked.
On-the-spot fines are dished out if the authorities believe a person has left their home unnecessarily — people are allowed go out to shop, get medical treatment, or go to work but non-essential movement is forbidden.
The Cork native made the move to Pau from his home province in 2014, but he says similar moves right across the rugby world are all in doubt now due to the shutdown.
“I spoke to a few of the other Irish lads in France and they are all at home as well. They were given a bit of equipment and are training away too.
“With the chômage payment, you cannot receive any demand from your employer to say you have to train, so you have to trust lads will do it by themselves. It’s not that their contract has been cancelled but they are on the dole.
“If they are professionals they know what they are doing; if they are retiring you can forget about it; if they are due to change clubs, that has all been put on hold too.
“There is a lot of uncertainty with fellas and their contracts. Guys who were hoping for a good run of games to show what they can do, that’s gone; there is no shop window.
“The club president came to us and said everything is frozen while this is going on. I assume it’s the same everywhere unless you’re an All Black or a top international. It will be very difficult for fellas to change clubs. If there is no promotion or relegation everyone will stay as it is — it’s so difficult to know what’s happening.
“I haven’t been chatting to any of the Munster lads, but I’m sure they are all being well advised by the IRFU. They are all staying at home too, we’re all in the same boat.
“I don’t know how the IRFU are going to keep paying the boys, it’s going to be tough on them. Here, at least the government backs up all the companies so they are not caught for the payment of salaries when there is no income. The IRFU has always been well looked after by the State but this is putting everybody under pressure.”