Rob Baxter says his Exeter Chiefs squad will return to the ‘highest possible’ standards of care when they return to training at Sandy Park sometime next week.
Exeter’s Director of Rugby was speaking after the Professional Game Board, which incorporates representatives of the Rugby Football Union (RFU) Premiership Rugby, Rugby Players Association (RPA) and Championship Clubs, today gave provisional authorisation for Premiership and Championship Rugby clubs to move to Stage 1: Elite Sport Return to Training Guidance.
The Chiefs - who lead the Gallagher Premiership after 13 rounds - have not played a competitive game of rugby since they defeated Westcountry rivals Bath 57-20 at Sandy Park on March 7.
In a statement, Chris Booy, Professional Game Board Chair said: “I can confirm that the Professional Game Board has given provisional authorisation for Premiership and Championship Rugby clubs to move to Stage 1: Elite Sport Return to Training Guidance.
"The clubs will need to satisfy a number of requirements to start Stage 1 as we continue the huge amount of work being undertaken to enable a safe return to training. The welfare of the players, management and staff is our only priority, and we look forward to the season resuming when it is safe to do so."
Before starting Stage 1, which allows for individual conditioning (or groups of individuals conditioning) in a performance environment with strict social distancing maintained at all times, clubs will need to provide a written declaration to Premiership Rugby and the RFU that they have met a number of key criteria. These include:
- All players and support staff must undertake an Education Module which will inform a formal "opt in" process for return to training.
- Confirmation of the appointment of both a Covid-19 Manager and Covid-19 Medical Lead.
- Clear guidance regarding cleaning and hygiene standards for training facilities.
- The provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) appropriate for the setting.
- Confirmation of a daily medical screening for players and support staff, which involves the completion of a symptom checklist and temperature check before entering the training facility.
Following today’s announcement, Baxter said: “Obviously, I am very pleased that we are now at the stage where we can meet all the necessary minimum standards to ensure we can return to Stage One of training.
“A huge amount of work has gone on behind the scenes at the club, involving the likes of Tony Rowe (Chief Executive), Chris Pickles (Stadium Operations Manager), Adrian Harris (Director of Medical Services), Jamie Fulton (Head of Medical Services), Mark Twiggs (Head of Strength & Conditioning), Tony Walker (Team Manager) and myself to ensure all of our players and staff will have the highest standards of care on their return
“Initially, all of our training will be carried out in an outdoor environment in small groups, after which we then review the situation and make the appropriate decisions based on the assessments and informations we have at hand.”
No timescale has been set for clubs to move to Stage 2 or Stage 3, which involves the safe return of Gallagher Premiership Rugby.