The phased return of community rugby reaches the next step from 1 September.
Clubs will be able to start limited and restricted contact rugby training and organise inter-club non-contact fixtures. This follows the reintroduction of intra-club non-contact rugby union activity at the beginning of August.
The reintroduction of limited contact training has been approved by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (‘DCMS’) and moves The Return to Community Rugby Roadmap from Stage C to Stage D.
The reinstatement of some contact activity is important to ensure players can continue to practice core skills and are able to start preparing and conditioning themselves appropriately as the game starts to return to normality with regular training and matches.
Varied training conditions will allow the return of tackling, lineouts and rucks, ensuring players are prepared to perform these skills safely and effectively with some restrictions. Mauls, scrums, opposed lineouts or upright tackles are still not permissible as the transmission exposure risk remains high. Contact training sessions have to be carried out in small groups of no more than six players.
Detail of the permitted training activity is available in the return to contact training guidance.
Within each training session a maximum of 15 minutes will be allowed for all contact training activities (75 minutes being the total maximum time for each session). In the remainder of the training session, players are permitted to undertake socially distanced strength and conditioning activities, small group non-contact skill development drills and/or touch/Ready4Rugby games (the only other permitted game training activity).
Clubs are also now able to organise non-contact fixtures with other clubs using Ready4Rugby or other Touch formats and should ensure they are appropriately set up and prepared for safely welcoming other clubs and individuals to their venues.
Steve Grainger, RFU Rugby Development Director said: “It’s great news for the game that we’re able to get back to contact training in the community game with some limitations. It’s another step on the journey to a return to full contact rugby although we still have a way to go before we will return to our full programme of competition.
“For rugby union to continue a phased return, there are some fundamental skills that players need to perform, develop and maintain to ensure that they can play in a safe and effective way when a return to contact rugby match play is permitted.
“During the lockdown period all rugby union activity in the community game was suspended from April through to August, resulting over 20 weeks when players have been unable to perform, develop and maintain these fundamental skills.
“Allowing limited contact activity will provide an opportunity for players to sustain these skills, physically prepare for the reintroduction of competitive rugby appropriately, reducing the potential risk of injury whilst also mitigating the infection risk through restricting the type and amount of contact activity.
“Although there is no confirmed timeline for the return of full-contact competitive match play, , we will provide an update to the game about competitions as planned on 1 September.”
Any return to play and training is a decision for individual clubs to make and they must continue to follow government Coronavirus (Covid-19) guidelines, along with any local government lockdown restrictions that may be introduced.