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Modified club rugby season to kick off in September

‘A specific date will not be issued until further clarity is available and will remain subject to change.’

Cathal O'Flaherty on the attack for Cork Constitution during their game against UCD back in January.
Cathal O'Flaherty on the attack for Cork Constitution during their game against UCD back in January.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

DOMESTIC CLUB RUGBY fixtures will return in approximately three months’ time, according to plans revealed by the IRFU.

Irish rugby’s governing body today announced that it has added a ‘Competition Stage’ to its Return To Rugby Guidelines For Clubs, with an unspecified date in September earmarked for the beginning of a modified season for 2020/21.

“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,” a statement reads.

“The given date will also factor in a minimum window of five weeks permitted for contact training ahead of a return to rugby matches.

“The Competition Stage is the final stage in the summary roadmap of the IRFU Return To Rugby Guidelines. All clubs are currently in the Covid-19 Safety Planning Stage, which they must complete before moving to the resumption of training at any level.

“The IRFU are working toward a modified season for 2020/21. The governing body 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.”

The IRFU is also launching a ‘KNOW > SHOW > GO’ campaign ahead of rugby’s resumption. This will involve clubs and players being asked to know roles and responsibilities in preventing the spread of Covid-19, to show respect for team-mates around safe behaviour, and to go train well before going home straight afterwards to allow team-mates to train safely. 

Greg Barrett, Chair of the IRFU Rugby Committee, said: “This is another welcome step in our return to rugby. 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.

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“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.

“This should help with concerns around travel, but our hope is that this will also serve as an opportunity for the rugby community to support their clubs and help generate some much needed cash-flow.

“For now, I would urge clubs to continue to focus on completing the Covid-19 Safety Planning Stage of our guidelines and availing of the education and training supports that the IRFU have put in place. That is ultimately what will lead to the resumption of rugby as we know it.” 

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Paul Dollery

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