FOR months now I have been warning of the damage being done by coronavirus to the grassroots of rugby, and one of my main concerns was that we could lose a generation of players, namely those moving from youth to adult rugby.

Those who disagree with me have said that such players will not be lost to the game. Like every other player in the various age groups, they will suck it up and emerge at the end of the pandemic to take up the sport again, or so the theory goes.

Then yesterday morning a most fascinating piece of research landed in my inbox.

It was based on a recent survey by of more than 6000 people and asked them which sports they had taken up in the past and whether they had stuck with the sport or quit.

More importantly the poll asked those who had quit a sport just how long it took them to make up their mind it wasn’t the sport for them.

To my dismay, but not my surprise, rugby was the biggest internationally played team sport that people quit. If you accept the pollster’s calculation that you need to train three times a week for up to six months to reach what they call amateur level – I started with two midweek training sessions and was playing in the 2nd XV on the Saturday – then rugby really suffers.

For after boxing, shinty and dance – which I don’t count as a sport anyway – rugby comes next as the sport which people give up the quickest. The survey found that the average time from taking up the game to quitting is just seven weeks, which’s experts say is just 27% of the time it takes to become an amateur player.

I can understand people giving up boxing quickly – I did so myself after looking in the mirror and deciding I had too much to lose (sense the irony) – but I was genuinely upset though, as I say, not shocked to learn that people who take up rugby often quit after just a few weeks. stated that they found 33% of those quitting a sport claim a lack of motivation as the primary reason, whilst 25% feel they do not have the time to maintain training.

The cost of training and equipment was cited by 24% as the reason for quitting, while just 18% cited physical injury. That last bit is good news because it proves that sports coaches are doing their job in at least keeping new players safe.

Interestingly, of the 39% who stick with sports the longest, they admitted to feeling motivated by increasing their fitness and the enjoyment of training – 31% said the latter, which would never have included me.

The sports which retained people the longest are yoga, football and golf. Again, I don’t class yoga as a sport and in the end all of the people surveyed eventually quit their sport, but clearly rugby is by some way worse at keeping people playing than football.

I am promised that you will soon be able to read about the survey at, and if you do so I am sure you will reach the same conclusion as me – rugby really does have a problem at the grassroots.

Most people who get into the higher echelons of rugby are spotted early, usually at school, and then pointed in the right direction in the hope they may reach the top. The vast majority of players in Scotland are content to play at amateur level, and right now that level has been devastated for many months because of the lack of competitive rugby.

SURE, many clubs have devised innovative ways of coaching and training, but young players just want to be playing against other clubs and that’s not going to happen any time soon.

There will come a time when rugby and all other sports will get going again at grassroots level and there must be an extra special effort to get players back into clubs and training again. If that involves the SRU spending some of its dwindling resources on special coaching sessions, then so be it.

Better still, why doesn’t the Scottish Government prepare and fund a national project which can be implemented once the experts say it is safe to do so.

That would mean ensuring that gyms and other facilities are up to scratch and would also involve money going to clubs and coaches with a national marketing exercise to drive home the message that sport is good for you – you might even lose the corona stone or two.

They could call it “re-start your sport” or something similar, and from speaking to a few pals involved in community clubs I think rugby’s grassroots would jump at the chance to get involved.