RFU says still much to be done before training restarts

England rugby coach Eddie Jones has suggested that reserves be limited to a total of six
REDUCING OPTIONS: England rugby coach Eddie Jones has suggested that reserves be limited to a total of six

The English Rugby Football Union insists that there is still “significant work to do” before Premiership clubs can resume training in a blow to hopes of restarting the season as soon as safely possible.

The British government this week gave the green light for elite sports to recommence training, with individuals or small groups maintaining social distancing in what Premiership Rugby described as “the first steps towards the return of Gallagher Premiership rugby”.

However, while Premiership clubs could, in theory, invite players back into their facilities as soon as today providing they met all the government’s conditions, the RFU yesterday suggested that any such move would need to have the prior backing of both the union and the players.

“The announcement from Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport that elite sports can restart is welcome and enables us to consider plans for a return to individual training with social distancing in selected performance training facilities,” an RFU statement said.

“While much has been done to establish protocols around a safe return, there is still significant work to do and discussions to be had with players and staff.

“Players at some clubs are understood to be seeking assurances around whether there will be testing procedures, which were not mentioned in the DCMS document.

There is also a question of whether players will be restored to full salary, having collectively accepted 25 per cent pay cuts when the lockdown occurred. Most Premiership clubs contacted yesterday were considering the implications of the report before setting a return date.

One complication is that players and staff will have to come off furlough, which the majority of clubs have employed.

The best-case scenario for the Premiership restarting being discussed is June 27. However the DCMS will only allow a return to contact training once the “government has agreed to move to this step, following advice from Public Health England and medical experts that it is safe to do so”.

Strength and conditioning experts believe four to six weeks of contact training are required for players to be ready for rugby.

Meanwhile, England coach Eddie Jones has lent his weight to calls for the number of replacements to be reduced.

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said he wanted replacements only as cover for injuries in a bid to decrease teams’ reliance on power.

Jones proposes having six replacements, including three front-rowers.

“With eight subs you can replace half your team in the second half, so again you’ve got power [as a focus]," Jones told the Rugby Ruckus podcast.

“All those things have built a game where it’s suiting the power players. We should cut down the subs to six, which would put a different aspect on the game.

“So imagine that you carried three front rows, one lock who could play back row, one halfback and then a backline player.

“That would make it a more fatiguing game because you wouldn’t get half a team being replaced.”

In another development, Agustin Pichot, Beaumont’s opponent in the chairman election, has resigned from the World Rugby Council.