English Premiership rugby ball
English Premiership rugby clubs will be allowed to return to contact training on Monday ahead of a planned resumption of the 2019/20 season in August, officials have announced.
The clubs have been involved in non-contact work since early June after the coronavirus pandemic forced the suspension of the campaign on 16 March.
But “stage two” allows them to resume close contact training in small groups, including scrummaging sessions.
“This is a significant milestone in our journey to restarting Gallagher Premiership Rugby, as we stay on track to resume the league on Saturday, 15 August, if it remains safe to do so,” said Premiership Rugby chief executive Darren Childs on Friday.
“This stage brings with it a comprehensive Covid-19 testing programme for players and staff and a contact tracing protocol.”
All players will be asked, on welfare grounds, if they would like to opt-in to stage two training, after completing an education module.
Childs added: “Rugby has unique challenges due to levels of proximity and impact, which is why the exhaustive process that is being followed is so thorough and has involved high-level collaboration between Premiership Rugby, RFU (Rugby Football Union) and RPA (Rugby Players’ Association).”
The return to contact training was ratified by the decision-making Professional Game Board, with chairman Chris Booy saying: “The Premiership clubs successfully completed Stage 1 of the process so now we can move to Stage 2 ahead of the targeted resumption of Gallagher Premiership Rugby on the weekend of 14 to 16 August.”
The title remains up for grabs, as do the play-off places, although relegation is already decided with reigning champions Saracens demoted due to breaches of the salary cap.
Exeter are five points clear of Sale at the top of the table.
Bristol and Northampton currently occupy the other two play-off places, with all 12 Premiership clubs having nine matches remaining in the regular season.