A former Premiership physiotherapist has warned that some of rugby’s elite could lose a whopping 20kg of muscle during the coronavirus outbreak.

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Ex-Gloucester physio Luke Anthony told The Sun that professional players will have felt the draining effects of having no rugby to play throughout the COVID-19 lockdown period.

All professional competitions worldwide came to a halt midway through last month, with those plying their trade in Japan’s Top League being starved of action the longest after the competition was first postponed in late February.

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Anthony spent two years with Gloucester as a physiotherapist between 2005 and 2007, and has held similar roles with English football clubs Reading and Norwich City.

During his time in rugby, Anthony would spend up to 12 weeks of the off-season at Kingsholm helping players to physically prepare for their upcoming campaigns.

“Guys will lose weight,” he told The Sun.

“Forwards who are between 100 to 120kg will lose between 10 to 20kg of muscle mass.

“These guys are freakishly big and it takes a lot of work, from a training and nutritional point of view, to maintain it.

“As soon as you drop off, so does the weight.

“Some will be OK weight-wise, others will struggle. Not all of them will still be squatting 180kg, deadlifting, bench-pressing — the basics — so will lose muscle mass.

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“They will be de-conditioned, but rugby will probably have to compromise somewhere to get back to a safe level to play.

“Realistically, it’s four weeks bare minimum. If you have a long period out, then ramp it up quickly, your body is more prone to injury. You need to build up tolerance.”

No return date has been set by any of the professional leagues around the world, with some – such as the Top League, Major League Rugby and the final of the PRO14 – cancelling the remainder of their 2020 schedule.

Unions and organisations remain in discussions about the feasibility of returning to action in different parts of the world, with Super Rugby looking at various format options once playing becomes possible again.

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