When will the game return to normality in the United Kingdom?
When will rugby return in the UK?
Currently there is no set date for when rugby will return to normal in the United Kingdom.
The UK has been one of the worst-hit countries in terms of coronavirus casualties and there is no real time frame for when rugby can be played at either amateur or professional level.
Gallagher Premiership and Greene King IPA Championship clubs have now been given provisional authorisation to start Stage One of returning to training providing they meet key criteria.
Stage One allows for individual conditioning (or groups of individuals conditioning) in a performance environment with strict social distancing. To start training in this way, clubs need to declare they have met the following criteria:
- All players and support staff must undertake an Education Module which will inform a formal “opt in” process for return to training.
- Confirmation of the appointment of both a Covid-19 Manager and Covid-19 Medical Lead.
- Clear guidance regarding cleaning and hygiene standards for training facilities.
- The provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) appropriate for the setting.
- Confirmation of a daily medical screening for players and support staff, which involves the completion of a symptom checklist and temperature check before entering the training facility.
Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter said: “Obviously, I am very pleased that we are now at the stage where we can meet all the necessary minimum standards to ensure we can return to Stage One of training.
“A huge amount of work has gone on behind the scenes at the club, involving the likes of Tony Rowe (Chief Executive), Chris Pickles (Stadium Operations Manager), Adrian Harris (Director of Medical Services), Jamie Fulton (Head of Medical Services), Mark Twiggs (Head of Strength & Conditioning), Tony Walker (Team Manager) and myself to ensure all of our players and staff will have the highest standards of care on their return
“Initially, all of our training will be carried out in an outdoor environment in small groups, after which we then review the situation and make the appropriate decisions based on the assessments and informations we have at hand.”
No timescale has been set with regards to clubs moving to Stage Two or Three, but Premiership Rugby is aiming to resume on 15 August.
In the southern hemisphere, elite players are already back in training. New Zealand is restarting domestic competitions with Super Rugby Aotearoa on 13 June while Rugby Australia is hoping to run a similar competition involving their franchises in July.
France, meanwhile, has cancelled the current Top 14 season with an eye on starting the new 2020-21 campaign in September.
When rugby is permitted is determined by each country’s goverment restrictions, but World Rugby has released return to play guidelines.
World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “We are all missing the sport that we know and love. While it is difficult not to be playing or training, advice by the respective governments and authorities must be adhered to.
“World Rugby, in full partnership with unions and players, has been busy behind the scenes ensuring that everything is in place for a safe and speedy return to the sport when it is appropriate to do so. This includes delivering best-practice coaching, refereeing and conditioning webinars, resources and apps and, of course, a phased roadmap for the sport’s return to training and playing.”
The UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) outlined the return of elite sport in relation to training in a document.
It says: “Step One of return to training can be described as a return to a level of organised individual programme training in a defined performance facility while adhering to the government social distancing advice.
“This might be individual training or groups of individual athletes training in the same facility/space but adhering to social distancing and other steps to minimise the spread of Covid-19. Under step one, travel to training venues is also permitted.
“A move to Step Two will be characterised by the allowance of a level of ‘social clustering’ within the training environment where small groups of athletes and staff will be able to interact in much closer contact (e.g. close quarters coaching, combat sports sparring, teams sports tackling, equipment sharing, etc).”
In terms of community rugby, unions are currently in the process of releasing return-to-play guidelines. The RFU has announced a roadmap outlining how and when players and clubs can resume training…
The IRFU has done the same for players and clubs in Ireland…
The WRU has set up a Return to Rugby Working Group to establish protocols and procedures that will allow the sport to return. The WRU’s community director Geraint John said: “We will be contacting all clubs, rugby groubs and female hubs with in-depth guidance to help with the return to play process. This will include online meetings and advice on getting facilities and people ready for when the time comes to start sanctioned training and off-field activity.”
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