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  • Writer's pictureKip

Graduated Return To Rugby

The piece below is part of an article in today's Wales Online written by WRU Community Director Geraint John,

on the phased return to rugby over the coming months. The full article can be read on WOS.

" What’s the plan with adults returning?

A: The Welsh government had originally said outdoor participation could start from May 3, for organised groups of 30 adults.

That has now been brought forward a week to April 26, which is great news.

So, from that date, adult players can return to do fitness, skills and touch.

From May 3 then, we will reintroduce contact training for a six week period, up until mid-June.

That doesn’t mean returning to 90 minutes of full-on contact on day one. It will be a progressive, very safe return, building up the contact work, and we will give out those guidelines.

Some people haven’t played rugby since January 2020. They have been inactive for such a long period of time.

So it’s about getting them back safely. What we’ve said to coaches is don’t try and set up training sessions as they were before Covid.

Start off slowly, make it enjoyable, get everybody involved and make it fun.

Don’t worry about playing games and winning at the moment, just be outside and play with a rugby ball.

The advice will be to start out with maybe 15 minutes of contact in the first sessions back.

Then, after that, people will need to wash their hands and sanitise before doing the rest of the activities.

We will go through those specifics with all the clubs over the next couple of weeks.

The under 18s will be able to resume contact training from that first week in May as well.

Q: What’s the next step after that?

A: From mid-June, clubs will be able to play Sevens and 10s matches against other clubs.

The idea is to go through things in small incremental stages.

You have less numbers on the field than in 15-a-side, less people in a contact area.

There will probably be modified laws to start with for that period, with no scrums, lineouts or mauls, just the tackle and the ruck area.

And all the way through, on the pathway back to participation, it will be important to stick to the safety protocols.

Q: When do we get back to 15-a-side rugby?

A: Our aim is to return to that at the beginning of August.

That would be the point to reintroduce scrums, lineouts and mauls, but probably with modifications and restrictions.

We may well just have scrums for knock-ons and forward passes, not as an option off penalties or not straight at the lineout.

Hopefully then, as things improve out there, we can gradually move to a more regular format of the game as we know it.

So we are looking at an autumn period from August to November for the return of 15-a-side rugby.

We are not re-starting our league programme during that period because our initial aim is to get people back playing and participating and getting our clubs back up and running.

We also have to be honest with ourselves, we don’t know how many people are going to come back. It’s also about being safe in terms of travel.

We have to start things slowly and see where we are before we get into a full-on league programme.

So we are looking at what the format will be for the autumn, maybe in terms of local derbies or cup competitions.

The aim would be to play 15-a-side, but if two teams get together and they’ve only got 12 each, why would you stop them playing?

Then we will have a winter break, as we are aware there could be a third peak during that period in terms of Covid.

If clubs wanted to play a local derby on Boxing Day, we probably wouldn’t stop them, as it could be a big revenue earner.

We would then go into a league programme in the new year, probably in February, running through to May-June time.

Q: Do you fear the year-long shutdown due to Covid might lead to a big drop in playing numbers?

A: The numbers don’t really suggest that.

We had around 45,000 players registered across all age groups at the beginning of Covid.

Right now, we have around 40,000 and we have not started playing yet.

It will be around August-September time when we can compare figures accurately. But the figures so far are positive and good news.

There were 4,800 coaches registered last year, we have got around 4,500 registered at the moment.

So numbers have not fallen dramatically. It’s not as bad as people thought it might be.

You could actually see the opposite effect as return. We might attract new players.

The West Swansea Hawks have had more girls coming back than ever before, a better response than last year.

We feel our numbers are good and we are seeing youngsters excited to be back.

When we do webinars with the clubs, to talk about getting the game back up safely, we get 300-350 people on these calls. There is a lot of enthusiasm out there.

Q: Are you hopeful that all of the 300-plus community clubs will re-emerge post Covid?

A: Our goal is to see the same number of clubs come out of it that went into it.

That’s been our mantra all the way through this.

We are fortunate in terms of our ring-fenced budget. All the clubs have had their grant money and we have tried to direct them to as many local authority, business and rate-relief grants as we can.

Macron have given £1m of free kit to our clubs, which every senior male and female side and youth team can apply for. We have had close to 90 per cent take up on that.

It’s a fantastic deal for the community clubs that can save them a couple of thousand clubs.

Our aim is to get all our clubs through this and none of them have said they are not coming back.

We know we can have outdoor hospitality in a couple of weeks time and then indoor hospitality returning some weeks after that.

The next two or three months are going to be pretty crucial in terms of the clubhouse and business side of things.

Q: What’s your overall view about the way things are progressing?

A: It’s just great to be back talking about playing the game of rugby again.

It may be modified laws to start with, but people just want to play some format of the game.

They just want to get out there, play a game of rugby, meet their friends and socialise and get back that banter that’s been missing for such a long period of time.

In coming back, our emphasis is on fun, enjoyment and getting people active and healthy, in a safe environment. Start off slowly and make it fun.

Just seeing people being outside and active again is great.

The benefits in terms of physical and mental well-being are huge.

So, do I see hope and positivity out there? Yes, very much so.

There is light at the end of the tunnel."

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