Irish rugby clubs to return to action in September

Minimum window of five weeks will be permitted for contact training before matches

The IRFU has added a ‘competition stage’ to their return to rugby guidelines and clubs will be permitted to play matches in September. Photograph: Inpho

The IRFU has added a ‘competition stage’ to their return to rugby guidelines and clubs will be permitted to play matches in September. Photograph: Inpho

 

The IRFU has offered September as a ballpark starting date for the 2020-2021 club rugby season per se but the likelihood is that national competitions won’t commence before November at the earliest. The timeline is contingent upon the country’s continued recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic and will remain subject to change.

A stepped progression, local first, provincial and then national, for the return of club rugby would be the most sensible course of action when weighed against managing senior and junior, male and female, underage and mini rugby participants in a competitive environment.

The union had previously outlined a four stage plan that began with ‘Covid-19 Safety Planning’ through ‘Reduced Activities,’ ‘Non-Contact’ and have now confirmed the ‘Competition stage,’ to facilitate the clubs as they work and plan towards the resumption of competitive rugby.

The IRFU statement also stipulated that “the given date will also factor in a minimum window of five weeks permitted for contact training ahead of a return to rugby matches. Given the changing nature of the reopening of society and the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, a specific date will not be issued until further clarity is available and will remain subject to change.”

All clubs are currently at the safety planning stage and will have to complete that before moving to the resumption of training at any level. The next two stages incorporate fitness and individual skills work, to be followed by non-contract training and games.

The IRFU has indicated that it is looking at a modified season that recognises “concerns over travel, safety and expense and this will be reflected in the season’s structure. Clubs should expect that games at the start of the season will be kept local where practicable.”

When club rugby resumes it is likely to initially come in the form of local matches/friendlies and then provided there are no issues, provincial leagues and Cups, with the last part of the jigsaw likely to be the All Ireland League.

Greg Barrett, chairperson of the IRFU rugby committee said: “There is a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes in clubs at present as they put health and safety plans in place to manage the risk of Covid-19. This announcement helps give us all something to work towards.

“It’s important for rugby players to have competitive sport to look forward to and they deserve to know that our return to rugby guidelines are built around their welfare. We will provide further clarity on what the 2020/21 season will look like, but what we can say is that the first matches permitted will keep travel to a minimum.”

Professional competitive rugby from an Irish perspective has been pencilled in for the weekend of August 21st-23rd with provincial double headers at the Aviva stadium with the Champions Cup quarter-finals provisionally slated for mid-September.

In terms of the national side the ongoing discussion at World Rugby level in trying to nail down a global yearly fixture calendar is proving a cumbersome process but Andy Farrell’s squad might expect to be back in the test arena in some capacity by October.

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