03:00PM, Friday 03 July 2020
According to David Mobbs-Smith, Maidenhead RFC has been a ‘UK leader’ in terms of the measures they’ve put in place to enable the return of socially distanced training at Braywick Park.
The Maids head coach thanked club chairman Stephen Bough for his efforts over the last few months to drive the club’s return to training in small groups, a best practice blueprint that’s since been rolled out to other clubs across the county.
Mobbs-Smith is aware that other clubs haven’t been so stringent in following the advice from World Rugby and the RFU on how to make training COVID-19 secure, but the measures put in place should stand the club in excellent stead for the return of competitive rugby, hopefully later this year.
This week the RFU put forward three different scenarios for the return of league matches, with Mobbs-Smith reading between the lines to say it’s likely those return dates would be September as normal, slightly late in October or November, or very late in January.
“We’re very lucky with the chairman we’ve got in Stephen Bough,” said Mobbs-Smith.
“He’s been the leader really in terms of return to play, practically in the UK. We sat down three months ago, just after this started and discussed what we could do and how we could adjust.
"He’s the one that’s pulled it all together, the documentation, the checks. So we’ve had best practice in place to allow the return of training in small groups. And that’s now been pushed out to other clubs.
“We’ve now introduced balls to training, well after we were allowed to introduce them. We just thought we’d let the players get used to the protocols first. You pass the ball between each other so while we might be social distancing the ball isn’t, so we have sprays for the ball even while we’re working with it.
“It’s not normal rugby. But sport is about comradeship and everyone is smiling again. The one thing we all have is rugby and we’re back doing it in some form. We’re doing what we love and were all in a much more positive mindset. These are young, active men and there’s a lot of weight on their shoulders at the moment, a lot of job uncertainty.
"But they can come down to the rugby club, have a runaround and, yes, there might be social distancing, but there’s banter and all the things that we’ve missed in lockdown and we’re lucky to have that.”
The measures currently being followed by players and coaching staff includes a temperature check on arrival, regular hand washing, a symptoms check on the day of training for all taking part and regular spray cleaning of the ball while it’s in use.
The head coach hopes to be able to introduce games of touch or tag rugby in the coming weeks, if restrictions are further eased, however, for now the coaches are limited to working in a socially distanced manner with up to five senior players, with four groups training at the same time in different quarters of the pitch.
“Boughy has been very positive, very proactive,” said the head coach. “He’s looked for solutions and found them. We’ve gone well beyond what’s required and my job is to keep as close to the regulations as I can. We have a responsibility to society as we try to claim back our world.
“We’re currently working in fives, and don’t have any indication of when that will increase. So we have four groups of five out there at the same time in clearly demarcated areas and they don’t mix or mingle. They don’t swap groups, they leave at different times and each coach does his own strength and conditioning session.
"We also have a rules of engagement document which you have to read and a symptom checker which has to be submitted on the morning of the session. If it’s not done you can’t attend.
“I watched a local football club next door to us and, I don’t know who they are, but I have a feeling they’re not doing any of this. We’re class leading on this. Boughy and the club are delivering something that’s of a professional standard. Other than the blood tests we’re doing what the pros are doing.
"The guy taking the temperature stands behind a plastic sheet. That’s the difference and it’s been created and driven by Stephen Bough. We’re so lucky to have a chairman like that and a coaching staff that also thinks its warranted and is executing it.”