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Players in dark about plan for rugby return

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Rugby administrators are desperate to get back to action. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Rugby administrators are desperate to get back to action. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Rugby administrators are desperate to get back to action. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Players in Ireland remain in the dark about when rugby will resume as the sport continues to grapple with the logistical challenge of returning to play.

The plan to return to squad training next Monday looks unlikely and the IRFU are to update the professional squads this week as to their next steps as they continue to consider the implications of the Government's roadmap for easing its Covid-19 restrictions and World Rugby's guidelines for resuming play.

Rugby is listed as part of stage five of the Irish Government's roadmap and, according to its current schedule, that means the sport can be played again on August 10. However, Dr Cillian De Gascun of the National Public Health Emergency Team gave a far more down-beat assessment, saying international rugby is unlikely to be played in 2020.

That puts the Guinness PRO14 in a difficult position, as it works to find on-field solutions to finishing the season.

Organisers are resigned to the idea they will not be able to play all eight remaining rounds and a full play-off schedule, but they still hope to host play-offs and a final and settle the European places in the fairest way possible, having rejected the idea that they will hand Leinster the title and call off the season.

Reports in Wales suggest the league wants to play two rounds of national derbies in August, before a curtailed play-offs would see semi-finals and a final take place in September. The Champions Cup knockouts would also take place that month, with the final in October.

However, while a number of scenarios have been discussed it is understood that the competition is waiting on further government advice before taking a firm decision.

And it looks highly unlikely that all matches will be staged in one country, despite a report stating that all teams would relocate to Ireland to form "a bubble" and play all remaining fixtures here.

Rugby administrators are desperate to get back to action because of the challenging financial situation brought about by the current stoppage.

It is now 10 weeks since the last match involving an Irish team and the IRFU and provinces have lost a substantial amount of revenue.

The July tour of Australia is expected to be cancelled in the coming weeks, while the November fixtures against South Africa, Australia and Japan are in real danger.

No date has been set for the postponed Six Nations games against Italy and France.

The French Top 14 abandoned their season, but the PRO14 and English Premiership want to find a way of finishing. If a cross-border solution cannot be found, then the IRFU could look at hosting a series of interprovincial fixtures behind closed doors at the Aviva Stadium when it is deemed safe to do so.

Meanwhile, Sport Ireland are still considering whether to appeal the one-month ban handed down to Munster's James Cronin as a result of his positive test for a banned corticosteroid.