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Inter-provincial series among possibilities for any return of rugby

‘That sort of scenario is a possibility of playing out due to the travel issues.’

Updated Apr 15th 2020, 1:04 PM

AN INTER-PROVINCIAL championship is one of the possibilities for the return of rugby in Ireland if the sport can resume in the coming months.

While it remains very unclear when rugby and all other sports will get back up and running, authorities in the professional games continue to discuss their potential options.

There is still hope within rugby that the current 2019/20 season club competitions can be concluded, although the international dimension of the Guinness Pro14 – which involves teams from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy and South Africa – means it is more difficult to see the championship being concluded.

tommy-odonnell The Irish provinces could play against each other when rugby returns. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Even if international travel restrictions remain a factor, there is some hope that domestic competitions could take place if Covid-19 guidelines are relaxed. The rugby unions in New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa have discussed playing internal domestic competitions, and it could be an option in Ireland too.

“Absolutely,” said Leinster’s head of rugby operations, Guy Easterby, yesterday when asked if it could be on the cards here. “Everything will be done in conjunction with the IRFU and other provinces and the Pro14.

“That sort of scenario is a possibility of playing out due to the travel issues we have as a competition. I would say there would be ongoing discussions around what that might look at when we get closer to a time when we actually get back playing.”

As things stand, Leinster and the other Irish provinces are still hoping to return to collective training on 18 May but that is, of course, very uncertain.

“That’s something that might change from day-to-day, never mind week-to-week,” said Easterby. “Listening to Simon Harris last night he was saying that the social distancing piece isn’t just going to disappear when the current lockdown restrictions are lifted.

“Everything we do will be guided by the government and their guidelines. That’s a very soft plan.”

If professional rugby does get back up and running in Ireland, it seems likely that games will be played out behind closed doors at first in order to avoid large crowds gathering in stadiums.

“I think it probably is a realistic option,” said Easterby. “Again, it’s about how quickly the social distancing piece comes into play but the longer the players go without playing, the keener they will be.

“Again, it is a bit of a guessing game. At Leinster we are prepared to do whatever it takes within the guidelines. Players want to be playing so it is important that we consider them. Nothing is ruled in and nothing is ruled out at this point.”

Leinster’s players have launched the #ShaveGrowOrMo initiative to raise funds for Feed the Heroes and the province’s charity partners, Down Syndrome Centre and MS Ireland.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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