IRFU Chief Executive, Philip Browne, has announced Irish Rugby’s ‘Return to Train and Play’ proposals have been submitted to Government and, based on this phased roadmap, the penultimate weekend of August has been set for the targeted resumption of Guinness PRO14 derby fixtures involving the four provinces.
The submission follows an extensive process involving a wide range of experts, including the IRFU medical team, external medical advisers, strength and conditioning experts, match staging experts, PRO14 officials and the Aviva Stadium team.
Under the proposals, the Aviva Stadium will host behind closed doors inter-provincial games as part of the completion of the 2019/20 Guinness PRO14 season on 22 and 23 August.
“Our documents are now with the Government and I would like to acknowledge the cooperation and support we have received from the Government and its agencies, in particular Sport Ireland and The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport,” Browne said.
“In these times these matches are not just rugby fixtures, they are a beacon of hope for the entire country. A step, albeit a small one, in Ireland’s opening up to an environment for which the entire country yearns. We very much look forward to being able to play our part in delivering this much needed tonic for the country.”
In relation to the resumption of international rugby, Browne said it is the IRFU’s ambition to see a resumption of Test matches in the Autumn, but admitted ‘specifically, what this will look like, it is too early to say.’
He said: “What I can say is that we are proactively engaging with World Rugby and our fellow Unions to work on a programme which will deliver international matches here sometime in October or November.”
On a seperate issue Mr Browne said almost 70 rugby clubs around the country have already applied for financial support through the Club Continuity Support Fund and called on the Government to recognise sport’s ‘contribution and role as a core strand in the fabric of society, and in turn provide the significant financial support all sports will need in the difficult transition from dormant isolation to vibrancy across their communities.’
On “a stark note in relation to sport in generalMr Browne added. “The levels of financial loss being encountered by all sporting organisations is catastrophic and rugby is no exception. The IRFU will do what it can to lend support to clubs but there is only so far drastically depleted funds can stretch.
“It is not sensationalist to suggest that without Government financial support sport will take a generation to get back on its feet, leaving an enormous void at the heart of communities throughout the land. Sport and Clubs have played an inestimable but often undervalued role in the development of our young and the health of the general population.”