THE Rugby Football Union (RFU) has this week confirmed that its action plan to commence a safe and phased return to grassroots rugby activity has been approved by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The 'Return to Community Rugby Roadmap' has been duly updated to show a move from Stage B to Stage C, which allows the rugby community to recommence some larger group rugby activity, initially non-contact, subject to adherence with RFU guidance.

Any return is a decision for individual clubs to make and they must continue to follow the government's coronavirus guidelines, along with any local government lockdown restrictions that may be introduced.

The return will initially be through non-contact rugby focused on Ready4Rugby, a non-contact game, enabling two teams of up to 10 players to engage in training and match activity in their own club environment.

Subject to satisfactory operation through August, it is hoped to move to inter-club Ready4Rugby in September.

In developing the action plan, the RFU was required to undertake a detailed assessment of exposure risk through face-to-face contact across both contact and non-contact rugby, and so any form of contact rugby is still not permitted.

The RFU says it will continue to explore and analyse adaptations to the key high risk face-to-face contact areas and seek to identify safe and appropriate ways to bring these back, initially into training, and then into match play - subject to further government approval.

RFU rugby development director Steve Grainger said: “It’s great that we’ve been able to secure the green light to recommence some rugby activity.

"Ready4Rugby provides a great opportunity for the rugby community to recommence training with larger group sizes and begin to reintroduce matches.

"We thank government for their support over the last few months to help get us to this position.

"We know that players are eager to get back to playing team rugby and whilst we recognise that there will be some disappointment that the 15-a-side contact game cannot yet return, player welfare and safety is paramount and we must continue to manage risk appropriately.

"The reaction of our community clubs over the last few months has been amazing, with many doing incredible work in their local communities.

"We are now delighted that they will be able to put some effort back into getting rugby activity underway.

“We are sure this news will also be welcomed by schools, colleges and universities.

"We will continue to work with the education sector to ensure all rugby playing institutions are as prepared as they can be for the new academic year.”