Safety is top of mind as the 2021 Atlantic Rugby Championships are set to take place in Saint John this weekend.
The tournament will host about 450 participants from the East Coast at Millidgeville North School.
"It's massive for us," Curtis Lauzon, technical director for Rugby NB, told Information Morning Saint John. "Obviously we've had a tough couple of years, but to be able to host this is phenomenal."
He said the tournament was supposed to happen just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, and that was just one hiccup in a six-year-long attempt to host the event.
The competition will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Lauzon anticipates large crowds of spectators over the weekend, but Rugby NB has had two years of planning to make the event as safe as possible during the pandemic.
"We've planned for the toughest measures, but we've been able to pull those back a little bit," he said.
Lauzon said the plan is to keep spectators and participants separated. All athletes will be asked to fill out a COVID-19 questionnaire to make sure symptoms aren't present, masks will be encouraged, and hand sanitizer stations will be set up throughout the tournament.
The tournament is an important opportunity for rugby players to claim a spot on high-tier teams.
Lauzon said a few national coaches are travelling to Saint John to attend the championships, which are for both men's and women's teams.
"We've been historically very successful at having some junior athletes being picked up to play international rugby and get some of that exposure," he said.
"For some athletes, this could be a life-changing event if they perform well."
He said COVID-19 took a heavy toll on the mental health of many players, and this event has brought a positive reaction.