Premier 15s to move to Stage 2 elite sport framework
The Premier 15s and England Women’s senior team will move to Stage Two in the elite sport framework with the introduction of adapted training regimes to minimise the risk of face-to-face contact.
The elite sport framework sits separately from the community return to play and is a strictly monitored, closed group in a performance environment being managed under the government’s elite performance guidance.
Made up of 10 clubs with around 400 players and 100 staff in total, Premier 15s is the playing pathway for the Red Roses who will be playing international rugby in October and participating in the Rugby World Cup in 2021.
Adapted training regimes will be introduced as part of this elite framework following detailed video analysis of Red Roses and Premier 15s matches from the 2019/20 season to establish player interaction data. The findings showed the accumulation of time within one to two metres proximity is limited, however, by reducing face-to-face exposure it will significantly mitigate any potential transmission risk.
The women’s performance game will reduce face-to-face exposure through prescriptive training and there will be strict distancing protocols for warm-ups, a reduction in time spent on preparing for set pieces as well as regular breaks in training and club and equipment sanitising.
Team meetings will ideally take place virtually and off site to further minimise contact time. Where this is not possible, meetings should take place outdoors.
Detailed session recordings will include video analysis plus a specific return to play training plan which limits contact activity and must be submitted weekly.
In addition, the closely monitored cohort and support staff will be subject to enhanced risk assessments, daily monitoring, temperature checking and strict cleaning and hand hygiene regimes. Players will undertake compulsory education modules and individual medical reviews and be given the choice of opting out of the programme.
Clubs will also be subject to audit of these standards.
It is intended that the new training regime will be used in pre-season training ahead of moving to Stage Three in the Elite performance framework.
The RFU’s Head of Women’s Performance, Nicky Ponsford said: “Our high-performance teams are delighted to be moving to stage two training. Through adapting our approach to training regimes, we are pleased to get our players back training in a way that is safe to do so. We will continue to work with government and PHE on our return to Stage Three protocols.”
The RFU will continue to monitor the infection rates in the community and all government guidance.