Revealed: Irish rugby chiefs plan June 1 training return

Plans are in place for Munster to return to Thomond Park, with their high performance unit at UL being used by the health authorities.
Revealed: Irish rugby chiefs plan June 1 training return
Plans are in place for Munster to return to Thomond Park, with their high performance unit at UL being used by the health authorities.

The IRFU are targeting June 1 as the return date for collective provincial training sessions with hopes of playing interpros in August.

Rugby chiefs had hoped for squads to begin a phased comeback on Monday, May 18, but that target has been pushed back by at least a fortnight.

Donal Lenihan, writing in his column for Wednesday’s Irish Examiner, revealed that planning for such a return is at an advanced stage but that issues "have yet to be ironed out". He notes that players will be requested to sign documentation accepting the risk posed by the virus before they are allowed to return to training with their provinces.

He also reveals hopes "for a series of interprovincial double-headers to take place at the Aviva Stadium on successive Saturdays in August to be broadcast live on radio and television".

He writes: “The plan now is for the provincial squads to commence a phased program of collective training from June 1 but a lot of issues have yet to be ironed out. The players' representative body, Rugby Players Ireland, has been briefing its members of the risks and issues involved.

That element is highlighted by the fact that players will be asked to sign a document accepting the risk posed by coronavirus, not only to themselves but to their family and others they interact with on a daily basis. While all the players are keen to get back to competitive action on the field, its not clear on what basis they are prepared to do so.

He said that plans for Munster’s return are already in place. “With their high performance unit at the University of Limerick currently being used by the health authorities, Munster plan to become self-sufficient and carry out all their training and preparation in isolation at Thomond Park.

“Starting in mini-groups of four, with no players in the same position placed in the same pod, the provinces will start with weights and fitness work before building up to controlled contact through pad work. After that, they will work towards training as two separate teams doing unopposed work before progressing to full contact situations three weeks prior to any live games.

“The hope is for a series of interprovincial double-headers to take place at the Aviva Stadium on successive Saturdays in August to be broadcast live on radio and television.

“With 40% of the Guinness PRO14 fixture schedule outstanding, it is hoped that these games will reduce any potential clawback of monies paid by the broadcasters in lieu of the large quantity of games that have been lost. The WRU are hoping to stage similar PRO14 derbies in Wales.”

- Read Donal Lenihan's full column in Wednesday's Examiner Sport.

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