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End of the tunnel in sight for Cambridge, Shelford and Cantabrigian

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A return to full competitive rugby has been mapped out
A return to full competitive rugby has been mapped out

Rugby clubs have an end in sight to more than a year with no competitive rugby.

A detailed calendar has been produced by the RFU to outline the stages for a return to ‘normal’ fixtures for the senior game.

Cambridge, Shelford and Cantabrigian have been without matches since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, but with the easing of restrictions being mapped out, there may soon be an end to the tunnel.

A provisional date of March 29 should see a return to contact training without scrums and mauls, with contact to be built incrementally and training sessions not exceeding 20 minutes of contact at this stage.

From April 26, matches will be allowed under adapted laws.

It is anticipated that full contact training will be permitted from May 17, assuming that Step 3 of the government’s roadmap is implemented.

If that happens, then full contact matches could be allowed from May 31.

RFU rugby development director Steve Grainger said: “This is fantastic news for the community game and we are pleased to be able to publish our plan for a phased return to full contact rugby.

“It’s wonderful to see light at the end of the tunnel and we are as delighted as clubs and players across the country that they will soon be able to resume training and, subject to each step on government’s roadmap being achieved, progress towards an exciting season of rugby for 2021/22 from September.

“Over the next couple of weeks, we will share detailed stage-by-stage guidance to make the return to rugby as simple and as safe as possible as we progress through the stages.

“As during lockdown, we will continue to run webinars for coaches, players, match officials and volunteers to prepare for the return.

“Guidance will include advice for coaches on how to gradually and safely reintroduce contact, as well as ways to re-engage players and develop their skills over the coming months.

“As more guidance is published by government, we will provide facilities guidance to ensure clubs are in the best possible position when they’re able to re-open their clubhouses.

Cambridge are in National League One, and the chairman of the NCA, John Inverdale, said: “This is light at the end of the tunnel.

“In three weeks time or so, rugby clubs can be alive again which is the key thing. March 29 and April 26 are dates which are set in stone.

“On May 31, full contact matches could be able to be staged for the first time. That is an opportune day for a lot of clubs to plan something for that Monday.

“You can imagine a glorious, early summer’s day, a packed rugby club, loads of people there, money over the bar and a sense of a new dawn breaking.

“If all things go according to plan, all restrictions will be lifted on June 21. If nothing happens untoward in the intervening period, we then get to July in pre-season training, and then we are off and running into September.”

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