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Phuket Gazette Sports: Rugby’s Six Nations update

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Phuket Gazette Sports: Rugby’s Six Nations update | Thaiger
English coaches in awe of young side’s maturity
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: England’s renaissance under coach Stuart Lancaster continued apace yesterday with a first Six Nations win in Ireland in a decade that left the coach and his staff almost in awe of their young side’s maturity.

It was a first trip to a damp Dublin for many of Lancaster’s new-look side and they faced an Irish team not only with more than twice as many caps, but also momentum of their own following impressive back-to-back wins over Argentina and Wales.

That impetus was quickly ended thanks to a string of first-half errors and a high-pressure game from an English team for whom young flyhalf Owen Farrell clinically took his chances in a well deserved 12-6 win.

“To come here with a young side and show that kind of maturity to close the game out was hugely pleasing,” Lancaster, who has transformed England into a far more disciplined unit since taking charge over a year ago, told a news conference.

“It was composure in the heat of the battle. It’s a very difficult place to come and play rugby. To play against a side as good as Ireland with so many experience players when we’ve got lads in single-figure caps, it’s a great testament to their maturity.”

The victory means England are the only unbeaten team in the competition after just two rounds and the only one capable of winning the grand slam, a feat they last accomplished 10 years ago under the captaincy of Lancaster’s predecessor Martin Johnson.

Graham Rowntee, another member of that 2003 squad and now England forwards’ coach, said winning away from home proved the young side had backed up their stunning November victory over world champions New Zealand.

Attacking coach Mike Catt, a World Cup winner in 2003, was similarly impressed, and rounding off the top table of trainers, backs coach Andy Farrell saved his praise for the composure shown when Ireland levelled the scores just after the hour.

Flanker James Haskell had also just been sin-binned but England doubled their lead when down to 14 men with flyhalf Farrell, son of the rugby league great, pulling the strings to ensure a third successive win over the Irish.

“There was a tricky point in the third quarter where we had a couple of back-to-back errors but the way that we composed ourselves and finished the games stronger was a masterclass really of how to handle that last 20 minutes,” Farrell senior said.

“For a young side to play like that in a pressured situation against a team that’s been there and done that many times and been successful with it is a credit to everyone.”

France hint at replacing Michalak for England trip
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: PARIS (Reuters) – France coach Philippe Saint-Andre has hinted that flyhalf Frederic Michalak may not be included when they visit England with a revamped team in their next Six Nations match.

France were beaten 16-6 at home by holders Wales on Saturday, a week after defeat in Italy, and are bottom of the standings with two opening losses for the first time since 1982.

“There certainly will be some changes,” Saint-Andre, who is due to name his 23-man squad on Monday, told a news conference.

“We accept our responsibilities. When you lose the two matches, it’s because you made mistakes. So we are going to try to find some solutions.”

The most significant change could be the axing of 30-year-old Michalak, who shone when France crushed Australia in November but produced poor performances in Rome and against Wales.

“You can see that it becomes hard for him from the 60th minute,” Saint-Andre said. “He is tired, both physically and mentally.”

Michalak, who played his first game for France in two years last June, joined French league leaders Toulon in the off-season after a year at South African side the Sharks.

Should Michalak be left out, Saint-Andre would start Francois Trinh-Duc in the flyhalf position, with Morgan Parra set to replace Maxime Machenaud at scrumhalf because France would need him to take on the kicking duties against England on February 23.

Saint-Andre ruled out recalling experienced internationals like winger Aurelien Rougerie or back-row forward Imanol Harinordoquy.

“I stick to my philosophy,” he said. “I will call up those who have a chance to be there in 2015 if they play at the same level.”

Wales leave it late to beat France and end losing run
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: A last-gasp try by George North helped defending champions Wales to a 16-6 win against France in the Six Nations at the Stade de France on Saturday, ending an eight-match losing streak.

Flyhalf Dan Biggar chipped through towards wing North, who shrugged off Morgan Parra’s tackle and dived in at the corner with eight minutes left after Frederic Michalak and Leigh Halfpenny had scored two penalties each.

Halfpenny converted and added a penalty five minutes from time to seal Wales’s first win since they beat France at the Millennium stadium to claim the Grand Slam in last year’s Six Nations.

France now face a difficult trip to England in two weeks’ time while Wales will take restored confidence into their match against Italy at the Stadio Olimpico.

“We always knew that we could win, but we had to dig very deep to take that win against France. It’s a great emotion,” Halfpenny told French TV channel France 2.

France Flyhalf Michalak said: “We defended well but we lacked efficiency in attack, just like last week.”

France, who had started the championship with an embarrassing defeat against Italy, and Wales, who were beaten by Ireland, both defended well but were toothless in attack on a chilly Parisian evening.

With Mathieu Bastareaud making his first start in almost three years, Les Bleus once again lacked flair.

Wales looked nothing like the team who claimed the Grand Slam last year until the final minutes.

Their late rally provoked an angry reaction from the Stade de France crowd, who booed the French players off the pitch at the final whistle.

Wales began well with scrumhalf Mike Phillips breaking through a couple of tackles and coming close to the line on a churned-up pitch that quickly deteriorated following heavy rains in Paris.

Biggar tried a drop goal early on from distance but it fell a long way short, while the game was ten minutes old before France made their first foray into the Welsh half.

France went ahead against the run of play thanks to a Michalak penalty after the Wales pack collapsed a scrum 40 metres from the posts.

Halfpenny levelled with an easy penalty after Jocelino Suta failed to roll away.

Bastareaud and Jocelin Suta threatened with powerful runs and France looked set to be rewarded with a try after an extended spell of possession, but the Wales defence held firm and Halfpenny eventually cleared.

The Wales fullback made it 6-3 just minutes into the second half with another penalty straight in front of the posts.

France reshuffled their backline with Francois Trinh-Duc coming on for the injured wing Benjamin Fall and switching positions with Yoann Huget at fullback.

Trinh-Duc missed a routine drop goal as France opted against going for a try when well inside the 22-metre line.

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre freshened up his front row, replacing Yannick Forestier and Dimitri Szarzewski with Benjamin Kayser and Vincent Debaty.

He also brought on Damien Chouly

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Tourism

Thailand’s 3rd wave wreaks havoc on the Tourism Restart Plan – where are we now?

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Thailand’s 3rd wave wreaks havoc on the Tourism Restart Plan – where are we now? | Thaiger
PHOTO: Empty beaches of Hua Hin - AJ Wood

OPINION by Andrew J Wood

Thailand Ministers ponder the next steps to re-start it’s massive tourism industry, initially set for July 1, 2021 in Phuket. The plan may need to be overhauled as Phuket struggles to immunise the whole island in the wake of the third wave of hotspots. Phuket, prior to the third wave had already secured more than 100,000 doses and planned to receive an additional 930,000 doses by June.

This would be enough for 70% of the population – the target needed to achieve herd immunity. The spike in Covid-19 cases has interrupted this plan, as vaccines must also be allocated to other provinces urgently to help fight the latest outbreaks.

Not deterred, the Tourism and Sports Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn said he plans to meet next week with all relevant agencies to discuss the reopening plan, previously set for July this year. Eighteen provinces have now been declared red zones, with a partial lockdown and stay at home order. The alert warning was also raised across the rest of the country to orange, in all the remaining 59 provinces many of which had previously been green and considered safe.

Deciding to ignore expert warnings, the government allowed the Songkran holidays to go ahead, even adding an extra day. However no mass gatherings or water splashing were allowed.

(Songkran is the Thai New Year celebration which typically lasts 3-4 days, leading to a mass exodus of cities like Bangkok).

Last year, due to Covid-19, the holiday was cancelled. As a result of the holiday this year, a few outbreaks in Bangkok allowed the virus to spread widely. The Bangkok outbreaks centred on entertainment places; restaurant-pubs and nightclubs around the Thonglor area, plus a high-society wedding at a new riverside hotel, whose guest list included a number of government Ministers and prominent business leaders.

The Covid virus from these few hotspots were quickly spread throughout the whole country, as people returned to their homes for the holidays. Unfortunately this was a perfect storm for spreading the virus. Up until this point, since the beginning of the pandemic, Thailand had only recorded 28,889 cases and 94 deaths as at April 1, 2021. Eighteen days later this has risen to 43,742 cases and 104 deaths. An increase in cases of 51%.

During my recent visit to Hua Hin, empty beaches were very much in evidence already with the third wave leading to mass cancellations. Some resorts, previously 70-80% occupied, saw domestic arrivals decimated. Already hurting from a lack of international visitors, this latest outbreak was a most unwelcome guest.

The question of re-opening Thailand to Tourism, starting with Phuket, has obviously taken a knock backwards.

“The key determinant is insufficient vaccines, we are concerned about the re-opening timeline. We still need to discuss the vaccine administration plan. If the herd immunity goal cannot be achieved, we may have to consider opening only certain areas in Phuket”.

However, to continue with the same plan, even with restricted zones, will not be easy as long as the country still has increasing new daily infections, said Minister Pipat.

“Most importantly, we still have to hear from other countries that we already started travel bubble negotiations with about their confidence regarding the same timeline.”

Like Hua Hin, hotels in the North reported cancellations of more than 70% with Chiang Mai a cause for concern and currently experiencing increased coronavirus cases. Prior to the pandemic, the province was a popular destination to celebrate Thai New Year.

Regrettably Minister Pipat is in self-quarantine after being in close contact with Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, who was diagnosed with Covid-19. The Minster fortunately has already received his first vaccination jab last month (AstraZeneca) and will remain in isolation until next week when all tests are complete (3 swab tests).

ANDREW J WOOD

Andrew J Wood was born in Yorkshire England, he is a professional hotelier, Skalleague and travel writer. Andrew has 48 years of hospitality and travel experience. He is a hotel graduate of Napier University, Edinburgh. Andrew is a past Director of Skål International (SI), National President SI Thailand and is currently President of SI Bangkok and a VP of both SI Thailand and SI Asia. He is a regular guest lecturer at various Universities in Thailand including Assumption University’s Hospitality School and the Japan Hotel School in Tokyo.

The content of this article reflects the writer and does not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of The Thaiger.

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Tourism

Phuket’s July Sandbox no-quarantine model “needs a major revamp”

Tim Newton

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Phuket’s July Sandbox no-quarantine model “needs a major revamp” | Thaiger
PHOTO: The monsoon waves are starting to hit Phuket's west coast

Thailand’s Sports and Tourism minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn is acknowledging that Phuket’s ‘Sandbox’ model for a no-quarantine re-opening in July will need “a major revamp”. As the Songkran travel bubble bursts and the monsoon season waves start to roll onto the island’s west coast beaches, Phuket’s scheduled July re-boot suddenly seems a long way off.

Minister Phiphat says he plans to meet with “all related agencies” this week. Apart from the latest national re-surge in new infections, Phuket has been unable to get its hands on sufficient vaccines to meed its deadline of 70% of the island vaccinated by July 1. Thailand’s limited supplies of the vaccine – including some 930,000 doses designated for Phuket – are being rerouted to other provinces as the government prioritises the limited supply.

“We are all concerned about the reopening timeline,” he was quoted in Bangkok Post.

But the Minister did acknowledge that, if the 70% vaccination level couldn’t be met, they may consider opening some areas of the island. Exactly how that would work hasn’t been revealed at this stage.

The minister also brought up the ongoing travel bubble negotiations and says he hadn’t heard back from some of the candidates with their reaction to the current outbreak.

Flights in and out of Phuket Airport’s international terminal have been extremely patchy and the flights from feeder tourist markets will need to co-operate with any re-opening plans.

Phuket, whilst suffering a rise in new infections, hasn’t been hit as hard as some of the other popular holiday provinces, like Chiang Mai, Chon Buri (Pattaya) and Prachuap Khiri Khan (Hua Hin).

This year’s Songkran was going to be a major stepping stone for the island’s recovery and many hotels, some who had opened especially to cater for Songkran holiday traffic, noted a lot of cancellations just prior to the break.

But some island hotels have still reported high occupancy rates over the past week. One Manager, who did not want his name published, said that their hotel was almost full with Thai patrons, most who had pre-paid for their flights and accommodation and decided to go ahead anyway.

Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, the president of the Phuket Tourist Association, says that they are opposed to any lockdown as it would cripple the island, with its tourist businesses already suffering greatly. He stated that 15% of people cancelled their Songkran bookings, while 30% had postponed their trips.

The Sports and Tourism Ministers is still in quarantine after having close contact with Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 2 weeks ago.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Phuket begs Kolour attendees to come for Covid-19 testing

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Phuket begs Kolour attendees to come for Covid-19 testing | Thaiger
FILE PHOTO: Kolour in the park was more pleasant in 2018 before Covid-19.

Health officials in Phuket put out a public statement this week compelling all foreigners who attended clubs and ‘Kolour’ events to report for Covid-19 testing. As many might expect, the response has been lacklustre at best. Spreading the message around the foreigner and expat community in Phuket, the message is aimed at the multitudes of people, mostly foreign who attended Kolour and related events that turned into a Covid-19 superspreader event. Many foreigners have not come forward, much to health officials chagrin.

Online and on social media, foreigners and Thais shed light on why this urgent public health request is going largely unheeded. Foreigners fear the repercussions of coming forward, especially since Thailand is not allowing staying home or elsewhere in isolation if someone tests positive for Covid-19. Quarantine is mandatory, and with infection numbers exploding across the country, many fear the less-than-posh comforts of being quarantined in an emergency field hospital.

Cost is the other factor that likely is preventing foreigners from turning themselves in to be tested for Covid-19. While Phuket health officials may test people for free, anyone found infected with Covid-19 will be financially responsible for all the costs of their treatment and quarantine. Foreigners with limited financial resources, especially after a year of holing up in Thailand to ride out the Coronavirus, may resist reporting to authorities when they cannot afford the mandatory quarantine and medical treatment.

Perhaps recognizing this hesitation, the message includes a plea for all attendees to self-quarantine and self-monitor for any symptoms over the next week, even if they fail to report or test negative. The note also reminds everyone to wear masks in public at all times. The statement to the public also instructed anyone who attended any of the Covid-19 spreading nightlife events to report to the Acute Respiratory Infection Clinic area of Vachira General Hospital to receive a Covid-19 swab test.

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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