National League clubs could be playing full-contact, 15-a-side matches on May 31st, providing there are no upswings in the Covid-19 figures.
A detailed calendar was published today (March 5) outlining the route towards a return to ‘normal’ fixtures. The key stages are as follows:
March 29: Return to contact training without scrums and mauls. Contact should be built incrementally and RFU guidance states that training sessions should not exceed 20 minutes of contact at this stage.
April 26: Matches can be played under the adapted laws.
May 17: Here it is anticipated we can go back to full contact training, assuming that step 3 of the government roadmap is implemented
May 31: Full contact matches could be staged (dependent on step 3)
June 21: End of all restrictions
There are obviously still some caveats dependent on the control of the virus, but we can look forward with genuine optimism now towards the return of competitive rugby at levels 3 and 4.
Speaking on the latest episode of NCA Rugby Chats, Chairman John Inverdale said: “This is light at the end of the tunnel.
“In three weeks time or so, rugby clubs can be alive again which is the key thing. March 29th and April 26th are dates that are set in stone.
“On the 31st of May, full-contact matches could be able to be staged for the first time. That is an opportune day for a lot of clubs to plan something for that Monday. You can imagine a glorious, early summer’s day, a packed rugby club, loads of people there, money over the bar and a sense of a new dawn breaking.
“If all things go according to plan, all restrictions will be lifted on June 21st. If nothing happens untoward in the intervening period, we then get to July in pre-season training, and then we are off and running into September.”
RFU Rugby Development Director, Steve Grainger added: “This is fantastic news for the community game and we are pleased to be able to publish our plan for a phased return to full contact rugby.
“It’s wonderful to see light at the end of the tunnel and we are as delighted as clubs and players across the country that they will soon be able to resume training and, subject to each step on government’s roadmap being achieved, progress towards an exciting season of rugby for 2021/22 from September.
“Over the next couple of weeks, we will share detailed stage-by-stage guidance to make the return to rugby as simple and as safe as possible as we progress through the stages.
“As during lockdown, we will continue to run webinars for coaches, players, match officials and volunteers to prepare for the return. Guidance will include advice for coaches on how to gradually and safely reintroduce contact, as well as ways to re-engage players and develop their skills over the coming months.
“As more guidance is published by the government, we will provide facilities guidance to ensure clubs are in the best possible position when they’re able to re-open their clubhouses.”
Further updates will continue on ncarugby.com. Thank you for your continued patience and support.