If the past few months have taught us anything, it is that spectator sport without spectators is a nonsense. Rugby, football, cricket, horse racing and every other sport should be praised for at least keeping things going, but fake crowd noises and clever camerawork that avoids the empty stands and terracings is simply no solution to the problem which we all face – we just cannot attend sports events until the desired herd immunity is achieved through mass vaccination.

The arrival of the new variant of the virus has knocked Governments, the health services and the general population skelly. Sure it was predictable and indeed was predicted, but its arrival has changed things utterly.  We need to re-think our whole approach to sport and to life in general – locking everything down for three months from tomorrow would be a good start, and why we are all not in level 10 here, or tier 20 down south, is beyond me.    

We are now just over five weeks away from the start of the Guinness Six Nations, with Scotland travelling to Twickenham on Saturday, February 6, with the kick off scheduled for 4.45pm. Italy play France earlier in the afternoon and Wales host Ireland on February 7.

As things stand there is absolutely no chance of spectators being allowed at any of these matches or any of the Guinness Six Nations games at all.  The Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish, Irish and UK Governments have all had to react to the new variant of coronavirus which is spreading like wildfire, and lockdown restrictions have been made even tougher. The Italian and French Governments has also tightened their restrictions and every expert I have seen on television says restrictions should be tighter and we are going to be in for a long haul to suppress this new variant, while there are reports that other variants may be arriving any day now.

As events have sadly shown, players and coaches are not immune to the virus, and I have to say that I think it is the height of irresponsibility for the various Unions to be bringing their squads together at this time.

I am sure that playing these matches in February and March will mean all the stadia being empty of crowds – there is simply no way that mass events can be allowed until much later in the year when the vaccination programmes in the various countries finally take effect.

Don’t take my word for it. The Scottish Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties, which includes anaesthetists, GPs and surgeons, put it bluntly at the weekend:

"We know there is hope on the horizon with the rollout of a national immunisation programme, with further vaccines likely to be approved shortly.

"However, it will take months for this to make a significant difference, and the short-term situation facing our NHS and public health services remains bleak."

With record numbers of new cases across the UK and the death toll still rising, and with hospital beds at a premium – there was even a report that English hospitals are running out of oxygen – why are we persisting with sporting events at all?

I am sorry to have to say it, but a rugby international without a crowd is a third-rate option. Forget all the television and corporate ballyhoo - the real point of the Six Nations is that people travel to meet friends and brother clubs in the various countries, and then attend the match or watch it in a clubhouse or favoured pub, maintaining relationships that go back decades.

The fact is that sometime later this year, mass vaccination will have made everything a whole lot safer, and unless new variants come along that the vaccine doesn’t kill, we should be in a situation where spectators can be allowed back at matches again.

As the Scottish Rugby Union’s accounts showed, the revenue from paying customers at international matches is utterly vital to the sport’s finances, so why go ahead with games that nobody is going to pay to watch – and will the television companies continue to pay up for what is clearly a sub-standard product?  

Earlier this year, the Six Nations organisers eventually had to act and postpone matches, which shows that such drastic action can be taken if necessary.

I think it is time to do it again. The image of rugby will take an awful battering if crowds are not in attendance – it is, after all, the atmosphere surrounding the clashes between ancient rivals which makes the Six Nations such a spectacle.

The whole of rugby’s leadership must get together and devise a Plan B, and C and D, allowing for the postponement of the Guinness Six Nations of 2021 until such a time when the matches can be played in front of an audience. It’s what the players and the rugby public deserve.