Rugby club committees across Ireland are meeting tonight to discuss the IRFU’s Summary Roadmap for a return to play.
The governing body will send detailed guidelines to its 217 clubs this Friday but over the weekend set out to provide clarity to ensure Covid-19 safety measures are taken before rugby activity can resume in accordance with government protocols.
Domestic rugby’s 2019/20 season was brought to a conclusion with immediate effect on March 19 as the coronavirus pandemic spread across Europe, affecting clubs in a variety of ways both in a sporting and financial context. There were no league or cup winners in any competition organised at a national level including the Energia All-Ireland Leagues, Energia Women’s All-Ireland Cup, and the Bateman Cup while promotion and relegation were scrapped for the season ended.
Many clubs lost out on vital revenues from bar sales, lunches, and other functions as a result, although in some instances they were also spared costly overnight away trips to opposite ends of the island.
Now comes the chance to plot the way forward and the IRFU has at least given clubs some light at the end of the tunnel as the country as a whole begins to enter Phase 2 of the Irish Government’s Roadmap out of lockdown next Monday.
Irish Rugby’s roadmap is currently in the Covid-19 Safety Planning Stage which means neither training nor playing is permitted while access to clubhouses is for “essential work only”.
Tonight’s online meetings for club officers were to discuss what needs to be done before their teams can return to training in advance of the 2020-21 campaign with the IRFU recommending the appointments of a Covid-19 Club Safety Officer and Club Compliance Officer(s) while each club can only activate a return with an appropriate COVID-19 Club Safety plan in place.
“We have a committee meeting tonight over Zoom, we’ve been having them for the last couple of weeks and we’ve put the Roadmap on the agenda for discussion, so we’ll have a better handle on things after that,” Young Munster club secretary Tom McCoy said of the AIL 1A club from Limerick.
“In the quick glance I’ve had, it looks positive. We’re all itching to get back playing rugby, will we ever get back to a rugby game that we knew is another matter, in the short-term at least.”
In Division 2C, Cork stalwarts Sunday’s Well have suffered the blows of a curtailed season, the postponement of the 2020 Mixed Ability Rugby World Cup, which was due to take place this month but has been put back to next summer, and the cancellation of both the outdoor concerts and U20 Six Nations matches at Musgrave Park which would have brought additional revenue from bars and car-parking.
Yet director of rugby Denis Corridan insisted it was all systems go. Former players David Corkery and John O’Neill have signed up to coach the first team in 2C next season, players for 2020-21 are being recruited, and today saw a digger officially turn the sod on a new gym project next to the clubhouse.
“It’s all go from the club’s and committee’s point of view, business as usual. We’re looking to the future with an on both the new season and the deferred Mixed Ability World Cup. I think the disappointment is from the players’ point of view. They’re looking for some concrete details because they’re itching to get back training and playing. The cornerstone of rugby apart from the contact is the camaraderie and there’s only so many Zoom calls you can do really.
“It would be nice to get a date for training because we’re prepared for small groups with no contact and anything to get them moving with a rugby ball ahead of (the Government’s Phase 4 on August 10) so it will be interesting to see the detailed guidelines on Friday.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel bout it would be nice to get a concrete date for training to give the players something to look forward to.”