The Rugby Union Players Association says it can learn from the NRL’s ambitious competition restart plans but won’t be pushing for a similar deadline.
RUPA, led by chief executive and former Wallabies lock Justin Harrison, is keeping a close eye on the NRL’s targeted May 28 reboot.
But Harrison, who is part of Rugby Australia’s Return to Play committee, says rugby union still has plenty of work to do before it will name a date.
While the NRL is domestic, with the exception of the Warriors, rugby has to start from scratch with the international nature of Super Rugby no longer workable amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
An Australian conference, with or without the Western Force and Tokyo-based Sunwolves, with finalists advancing to face New Zealand teams seems to be the preferred model with an early July start date.
“Every sport is looking to satisfy existing or new commercial and broadcast deals, so it’s understandable there’s a lot of rhetoric and energy around getting some sort of product and content and being able to provide a revenue stream,” Harrison told AAP.
“The Return to Play committee has been working with a lot of involvement from players and administrators and member unions but in a large part the uncertainty around it is being governed by federal government health restrictions.
“There’s training protocols, the mental health preparedness of players, providing a safe and healthy environment in line with what government recommendations are … there’s all sorts of things that are very difficult to put a timeline on.”
Harrison acknowledged that setting a date could benefit the mental health of players and they hoped to have some solid information delivered to players within the next fortnight.
He said rugby could benefit from the NRL’s implementation of health and cleaning protocols and management of isolation of players coming in and out of training.
“It will give us some sort of idea of a template but we will see have the intricacies of what is unique to rugby,” the former Wallabies lock said.
He believed that the physical demands of scrummaging means players would likely need four to six weeks solid training.
The smoothest way back may be via club football, with Brisbane’s club competition targeting a July 1 return and training from June.
Former Wallabies great Tim Horan believed that launch pad would also breath life into the code.
“That’s where a lot of support has moved from Super Rugby,” he told New Zealand’s Sky TV.
“It’s moved back to club land; the Shute Shield in New South Wales is a great competition, the same in Brisbane, the premiership’s been really well supported.
“I think it’s because people get back to serving behind the bar or a BBQ and you’ve got three or four thousand people at a club game and some club games in Sydney draw eight to 10,000.”
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