The green light has finally been given for taking the first step towards completing the indefinitely suspended 2019/20 Gallagher Premiership season. The campaign was stopped in March due to the coronavirus pandemic outbreak. 

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Training facilities at clubs were closed down with players told to train individually in isolation at their homes nearly three months ago. However, amid hopes that the league can still be completed even though there are 57 matches remaining, Premiership Rugby officials have now welcomed the latest UK Government guidance that has laid the ground rules for a return to training.

This follows the disappointing announcement on May 21 which detailed a setback in the return to rugby plan, but those concerns have now been addressed.

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Chris Booy, Premiership Rugby’s professional game board chair said: “I can confirm that the professional game board, which incorporates representatives of the Rugby Football Union (RFU) Premiership Rugby, Rugby Players Association (RPA) and Championship Clubs, has given provisional authorisation for Premiership and Championship clubs to move to stage 1: elite sport return to training guidance.

“The clubs will need to satisfy a number of requirements to start stage 1 as we continue the huge amount of work being undertaken to enable a safe return to training. The welfare of the players, management and staff is our only priority, and we look forward to the season resuming when it is safe to do so.”

Before starting stage 1, which allows for individual conditioning (or groups of individuals conditioning) in a performance environment with strict social distancing maintained at all times, clubs will need to provide a written declaration to Premiership Rugby and the RFU that they have met a number of key criteria. These include:

  • All players and support staff must undertake an education module which will inform a formal “opt-in” process for return to training;
  • Confirmation of the appointment of both a Covid-19 manager and Covid-19 medical lead;
  • Clear guidance regarding cleaning and hygiene standards for training facilities;
  • The provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriate for the setting;
  • Confirmation of a daily medical screening for players and support staff, which involves the completion of a symptom checklist and temperature check before entering the training facility.

No timescale has been set for clubs to move to stage 2 or stage 3 which involves the safe return of Gallagher Premiership rugby.

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Rob Baxter, coach of table-topping Exeter Chiefs said: “I’m very pleased that we are now at the stage where we can meet all the necessary minimum standards to ensure we can return to Stage 1 of training. A huge amount of work has gone on behind the scenes at the club… to ensure all of our players and staff will have the highest standards of care on their return

“Initially, all of our training will be carried out in an outdoor environment in small groups, after which we then review the situation and make the appropriate decisions based on the assessments and information we have at hand.”

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