Irish rugby competitions to restart in September with 'modified season'

By Stephen Barry

The IRFU intends to structure the season to begin with games between sides from the same locality to minimise travel and costs. Photo: INPHO/Oisin Keniry
The IRFU intends to structure the season to begin with games between sides from the same locality to minimise travel and costs. Photo: INPHO/Oisin Keniry

Domestic rugby competitions in Ireland will return in September with the IRFU working towards a "modified season".

Clubs now have a timetable to plan for the new season with the start date, which is not yet specified, guaranteeing a minimum five-week window for contact training before the season kicks off.

It's intended that the season will be structured to begin with games between sides from the same locality to minimise travel and costs. It will also allow fans to support clubs seeking to restore some much-needed cash-flow. 

"Given the changing nature of the reopening of society and the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, a specific date will not be issued until further clarity is available and will remain subject to change," said an IRFU statement.

"The governing body recognises concerns over travel, safety, and expense, and this will be reflected in the season’s structure. Clubs should expect that games at the start of the season will be kept local where practicable."

Irish rugby remains in the planning phase before a return to non-contact training is permitted.

"There is a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes in clubs at present as they put health and safety plans in place to manage the risk of Covid-19. This announcement helps give us all something to work towards," said chair of the IRFU Rugby Committee Greg Barrett.

"It’s important for rugby players to have competitive sport to look forward to and they deserve to know that our return to rugby guidelines are built around their welfare.

"We will provide further clarity on what the 2020/21 season will look like, but what we can say is that the first matches permitted will keep travel to a minimum.

"This should help with concerns around travel, but our hope is that this will also serve as an opportunity for the rugby community to support their clubs and help generate some much needed cash-flow.

"For now, I would urge clubs to continue to focus on completing the Covid-19 safety planning stage of our guidelines and availing of the education and training supports that the IRFU have put in place. That is ultimately what will lead to the resumption of rugby as we know it."

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