COMMUNITY rugby clubs have been given the green light to start limited and restricted contact training and organise inter-club non-contact fixtures from today (September 1).

This latest step on the phased return of the sport following the coronavirus lockdown has been approved by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), enabling the Rugby Football Union (RFU) to move from Stage C to Stage D on its 'Return to Community Rugby Roadmap'.

An RFU statement said: "The reinstatement of some contact activity is important to ensure players can continue to practice core skills and are able to start preparing and conditioning themselves appropriately, as the game starts to return to normality with regular training and matches.

"Varied training conditions will allow the return of tackling, lineouts and rucks, ensuring players are prepared to perform these skills safely and effectively with some restrictions.

"Mauls, scrums, opposed lineouts or upright tackles are still not permissible as the transmission exposure risk remains high.

"Contact training sessions have to be carried out in small groups of no more than six players.

"Within each training session a maximum of 15 minutes will be allowed for all contact training activities - 75 minutes being the total maximum time for each session.

"In the remainder of the training session, players are permitted to undertake socially distanced strength and conditioning activities, small group non-contact skill development drills and/or Touch/Ready4Rugby games.

"Clubs are also now able to organise non-contact fixtures with other clubs using Ready4Rugby or other Touch formats and should ensure they are appropriately set up and prepared for safely welcoming other clubs and individuals to their venues."

Steve Grainger, RFU rugby development director, said: “It’s great news for the game that we’re able to get back to contact training in the community game with some limitations.

"It’s another step on the journey to a return to full contact rugby although we still have a way to go before we will return to our full programme of competition.

“For rugby union to continue a phased return, there are some fundamental skills that players need to perform, develop and maintain to ensure that they can play in a safe and effective way when a return to contact rugby match play is permitted.

“During the lockdown period all rugby union activity in the community game was suspended from April through to August, resulting over 20 weeks when players have been unable to perform, develop and maintain these fundamental skills.

“Allowing limited contact activity will provide an opportunity for players to sustain these skills, physically prepare for the reintroduction of competitive rugby appropriately, reducing the potential risk of injury while also mitigating the infection risk through restricting the type and amount of contact activity.”

More information for rugby clubs and players can be found here.