CONTACT rugby union has been given the green light by the UK government to return at grassroots level - subject to adaptations - from tomorrow (December 2).

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has welcomed the news that 15-a-side rugby can resume, following extensive research and consultation with government into how the risks of close contact might be mitigated amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Clubs will be able to begin adapted training from tomorrow, in preparation for local friendly fixtures recommencing from Friday, December 18, when the following law variations will come into effect:

There will be no scrums or mauls in the game, with free-kicks used as restarts instead of scrums (free-kicks cannot be taken quickly); a minimum of five and a maximum of seven players from each team are required to form a lineout; and a team awarded a penalty or free-kick at a lineout can instead choose another lineout at the same mark.

Further details on the variations, as well as a video explanation, can be found here.

The RFU stated that these law variations will be reviewed as the season progresses and as Covid-19 restrictions change.

RFU rugby development director Steve Grainger said: “We are delighted that our submission has been approved to return to a format of 15 a-side rugby and we thank government for working with us to find a solution that enables the safe return of the community game.

“In recent months, we have received growing support from clubs and players in favour of adaptations, with law variations preferable to the option of no rugby at all.

"This is wonderful news for community clubs, their volunteers, players and supporters around the country, who can now look forward to playing contact rugby for the first time since March.

“We now need to be as safe as we possibly can be and comply with all off-field social distancing and Covid-secure guidance, to ensure we can continue our phased return to full contact rugby when it is safe to do so.”

England head coach Eddie Jones commented: “I know how much work has gone into getting international rugby back.

“Having community rugby back is the next step in getting the game up and running and I am pleased for everyone involved in the community game, which has gone through a very tough time.

“They can now get excited about having rugby back in their lives.”

Clubs in all tiers will be able to return to Stage E on the Return to Community Rugby Roadmap.

Further guidance on travel within/between tiers will be issued following publication of government guidance.

There is no obligation for players and clubs to play 15-a-side adaptations, and clubs will still be able to play Ready4Rugby matches up until and beyond 18 December.

Adapted Stage E rules for age grade rugby have also been approved for Under-7 to Under-13 level and Under-14 to Under-18 level.

The move to Stage E will allow the recommencing of Tag Rugby for Under-7s and Under-8s.