11:27AM, Thursday 26 November 2020
Maidenhead RFC are set to play in a cluster league with sides including the Old Haberdashers and Belsize Park when the club eventually resumes competitive rugby early in the new year.
Maids chairman Steve Bough confirmed this week the club had agreed to take part in the localised cluster competition, should the RFU get permission from Government for contact rugby to resume.
He’s hopeful a form of adaptive rugby, similar to that currently being played in the Women’s Premiership, will be deemed acceptable provided COVID restrictions are relaxed sufficiently between now and the new year.
With the country set to emerge from a second national lockdown next week it is hoped community rugby teams across England will be able to return to contact training in order to get themselves match-fit for the leagues to commence in mid-January.
The new leagues have been created following the RFU Council’s decision to cancel the 2020/21 league season for men’s sides at level 3 and below.
It will provide clubs with structured competitive matches, hopefully both home and away.
As it stands Maids are set to take on several sides they haven’t faced in years, if at all. They are the Old Haberdashers, Belsize Park, Amersham & Chalfont, Hammersmith and Fulham and Beaconsfield.
Windsor RFC are set to play in a similar league against London Irish Wild Geese, Cobham, Camberley, Farnham and Bracknell.
“We’ve been partnered with some teams by the RFU and we’ve accepted that,” said Bough. “We’re in the process of chatting to those clubs to see which ones want to take part and the RFU are going to set the dates so we’ll have to wait on that.
“I’d like to think we’ll play these teams both home and away. It will be full contact but there will be some adaptations. It’s great for us and there would have been no point trying to play part of the league season, that would just have been pointless so as far as we’re concerned this gets us back playing. It also gives us flexibility and the chance to play some of our younger players and give them a chance to play senior rugby and see how they fit into it.”
For the league to kick off in mid-January Maids would need to return to full-contact training pretty much straight away after lockdown is lifted next week. Head coach David Mobbs-Smith has spoken about the players needing at least a month to get their bodies conditioned for the impact of playing competitive matches.
“Hopefully it will be straight back to training for both the youth and the senior sides,” said Bough.
“We had several touch tournaments which were cancelled because of the recent lockdown restrictions so if we can rearrange them pre-Christmas then we will do. We’re going to click back into training as soon as we can after December 3.
“I would imagine we might kick off in the second week of January. The RFU must still get permission from Government and finalise what amendments to the laws of the game will be made. Perhaps it will be like the Women’s Premiership.
“Then we need about a month of training before we go back to full contact matches. I hope it’s going to be the middle of January, but, obviously, until we get the nod from Government and the RFU we don’t know.”
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