Officials in England have finally agreed on a series of player welfare initiatives to help absorb the workload of the remainder of the 2019/20 season and the whole of the 2020/21 Gallagher Premiership and England campaigns.
The outbreak of the pandemic Covid-19 pandemic required changes to this season – including the scheduling of midweek league fixtures – and next by the PGB to cover Gallagher Premiership and England matches and what has now been agreed will apparently be under constant review and monitored weekly.
A statement outlined the various measures that will be implemented in the Gallagher Premiership:
For the 2019/20 season:
- No player will play more than 180 minutes if selected in a matchday 23 on three occasions in a week;
- No player will start all three games in a week;
- No player will be selected in more than six matches in the seven games between August 14 and September 13;
- A player’s training load will be managed if they are selected in three matchday squads in any given seven-day period.
In addition, at the end of the 2019/20 season there will be:
- A three-week break for all players, except those in the Premiership final who will receive a two and a half week break and one and a half week preparation for round one;
- No pre-season friendlies for clubs in the Premiership or European finals;
- England players will receive a one-week break after England v Italy and two weeks following their return to clubs in December.
For the 2020/21 season:
- The season starts Friday, November 20, and ends with the final on Saturday, June 26;
- All players are guaranteed a three-week rest period with maximum notice possible;
- A game-wide mental health monitoring programme will be launched, and will be available for all players;
- Premiership Rugby Shield cancelled for this season and will be reviewed.
Phil Winstanley, rugby director at Premiership Rugby, said: “The Covid-19 global pandemic has created the biggest challenge we have ever seen to professional sport in this country and has placed significant operational and financial pressures on the sport.
“The effects of the pandemic have required a redesign of the rugby calendar and shift in the 2019/20 and 2020/21 Premiership seasons.
“Working closely with the RFU, RPA and a number of senior players and coaches we have collaborated to produce player welfare initiatives for both seasons. No two players are the same and we need to allow the directors of rugby to manage these individual needs but within a framework we are all comfortable with.”
Conor O’Shea, director of performance Rugby at the RFU, added: “All parties have approached this acknowledging the challenges we all face but also understanding everyone would need to compromise.
“We have had extensive discussions across the game but most importantly with the players, Eddie and a number of directors of rugby. Through this, we have reached a really positive solution.
“We will constantly review and monitor all players, especially those who carry the greatest load. We have managed to marry the scientific with the practicality of the challenge.”
Damian Hopley, chief executive of the RPA, said: “The next twelve months will be the most arduous playing schedule ever undertaken by the players, clubs and England. All stakeholders have worked collaboratively to agree on essential player welfare initiatives in these extraordinary circumstances.
“We recognise the duty of care that the clubs and RFU have for the players and we will all continue to work closely with the medical and strength and conditioning experts to monitor individual player load throughout the challenging schedule that lies ahead.”
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