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Author Topic: Finishing Premiership season now a 'long shot' with clubs not expecting return to training until ne  (Read 303 times)

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Gavin Mairs (Telegraph)

Hopes of a swift return to training were effectively dashed after a meeting between the clubs' medics and the RFU's medical director

Premiership Rugby’s hopes of completing their full league programme were on Wednesday night said to be “a long shot” with clubs now not expected to return to training until next month at the earliest, Telegraph Sport can reveal.

Hopes of a swift return to training this week were effectively dashed on Wednesday following a meeting between the clubs' medical officers and the Rugby Football Union’s medical services director, Dr Simon Kemp.

Kemp is understood to have presented a comprehensive document outlining the extent of the measures that need to be put in place before club’s can even consider calling their players back for individual training with social distancing measures – stage one of the Government’s return to play protocol.

Sources suggest some clubs are still facing a significant amount of work to complete to ensure that all the measures are put in place to even allow them to the first stage, effectively ending any hopes of returning to training before June 1.

“There is still a huge amount of work to be done,” said one club source. “There is not going to be a return to training next week, there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of everyone agreeing to the process.”

Premiership Rugby has prepared a number of scenarios for the completion of the league campaign but hopes of playing all of the remaining nine rounds and semi-finals and finals are based on returning to play by early July.

If clubs are not allowed to return to training until early June, Premiership Rugby may consider cancelling six rounds to allow the final to be played on August 15.

“It is looking like a long shot now if we are going to be able to play every game,” said one club source.

Premiership Rugby are expected to issue tender documents to procure Covid-19 testing kits in the next few days, which will be critical to moving to stage two of the Government’s plan - training in small groups -  as the clubs hope to formalise a return-to-play protocol with the RFU next week.

Agreement with the Rugby Players Association will also be required, amid concerns about player welfare.

Clubs are also concerned about the costs of bringing players back off the furlough scheme without the guarantee of being able to return to league matches, and the associated costs of meeting the measures.

It is thought that up to 150 kits will be needed for each match, on top of testing twice a week for players and staff at each club.

Meanwhile, Dane Coles, the New Zealand hooker, believes the coronavirus crisis might deter other All Blacks from moving to Europe for lucrative contracts at the end of their careers.

"It does make you appreciate being in New Zealand," the Hurricanes captain said.

"We heard some sad stories of guys playing in France and they're still in lockdown and their contract is taking a massive hit.

"We're very grateful that we're in New Zealand and it's definitely going to have an effect on people looking overseas in that UK and France market.

"New Zealand's a great place, not a bad place to finish up your career."

Aaron Mauger, the former Leicester coach, believes the pandemic may see Kiwis return to New Zealand from Europe.

New Zealand's five Super Rugby teams went back to training this week to prepare for a 10-week domestic competition starting on June 13.

"I think there's definitely potential for players returning from overseas," Mauger said.

"And the reason for that is that the context has changed. The context they thought they were going to has totally changed. Around living circumstances, ability to travel, clubs struggling with payments, all those things.

"All those things are definitely going to influence those decisions over whether they're going to come home to play."



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