Irish provinces enter three-week summer break hoping for PRO14 clarity

Irish provinces enter three-week summer break hoping for PRO14 clarity
Tyler Bleyendaal was among Munster's eight players who exited the squad last Thursday. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

A Guinness PRO14 board meeting next week is hoped to provide guidance for the four Irish provinces when they are set to resume training at the end of their summer breaks.

The off-season began last Friday in novel circumstances given the provinces still have the 2019-20 campaign to complete following the indefinite suspension of the league in early March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In line with the Irish Government’s Roadmap out of coronavirus lockdown, contact sports are not set to resume until Phase 4 on August 10 with the IRFU announcing that provisional dates for a PRO14 interprovincial series behind closed doors at Aviva Stadium have been set for August 22-23.

Players have been given three weeks off for their summer break though that could change if the Roadmap is stalled and Covid-19 cases begin to rise again. The IRFU has submitted its return to train and play protocols to government and the hope is that the PRO14 board meeting can give further guidance on a calendar for the safe resumption of professional rugby in terms of cross-border competition. 

In South Africa, which is represented in the PRO14 by the Cheetahs and Southern Kings, the government on Saturday announced that professional sports teams could begin the process of returning to training under its Level 3 lockdown easing and gave them 14 days to submit proposals to the Department of Sport on how they would ensure the safety of the players and officials.

The Munster squad completed their remote training programmes last Thursday after which the 2019-20 squad was disbanded following a final online meeting.

That saw Johann van Graan’s group bid farewell to eight departing players including Tyler Bleyendaal and Brian Scott, both of whom have been forced to retire through injury.

When the senior squad returns, head coach van Graan will welcome four graduates from the academy and four new signings: South African World Cup-winning centre Damian de Allende and lock RG Snyman, full-back Matt Gallagher from Saracens and tighthead prop Roman Salanoa from Leinster. De Allende has already completed his 14-day self-isolation period while Snyman and Gallagher are going through the same process having arrived in Ireland.

Meanwhile, the Munster Branch of the IRFU is set to stage its Annual General Meeting online this summer given the ongoing government restrictions on public gatherings.

Munster summer 2020: Ins and Outs

IN: Damian de Allende (Panasonic Wild Knights), Liam Coombes (Academy), Matt Gallagher (Saracens), Keynan Knox (Academy), Alex McHenry (Academy), Jack O’Sullivan (Academy), Roman Salanoa (Leinster), RG Snyman (Honda Heat).

OUT: Sammy Arnold (Connacht), Tyler Bleyendaal (retired), Arno Botha (Blue Bulls), Seán O’Connor (out of contract), Darren O’Shea (out of contract), Conor Oliver (Connacht), Ciaran Parker (out of contract), Brian Scott (retired).

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