Maids balance duty of care for players with getting back to action

Maidenhead RFC will play their first adaptive contact game of the ‘post-season’ against Oxford Harlequins this weekend, with head coach David Mobbs-Smith confident the club has got the balance right between returning to action and protecting the players from injury.

With restrictions having been eased to allow adaptive contact matches to resume, most clubs have been conscious of the ‘duty of care’ they have to their players, to ensure they’re not rushed back to competitive action too soon after such a long break.

Maids have been keen to get the club back open again for business and have organised a 7s competition to take place at Braywick Park on Friday week (May 28) before the senior side takes on Oxford University on the 3G pitch the following day (Saturday, May 28). But, while scrums and mauls won’t return until pre-season, Mobbs-Smith knows that there's a risk of injury if players aren’t conditioned properly for the contact element of the game.

In contrast Windsor RFC aren’t planning to play any adaptive contact matches before players come back in for pre-season at the end of June.

“The lads are raring to go,” said Mobbs-Smith this week. “But you’ll hear loads of coaches talking about this, we have a duty of care to these players.

“They are young guys, and given the chance they’d jump straight in, but we have to do it in a way that allows them to get their fitness back gradually, both in training and matches.

“In these first few (contact) matches we will have big squads, with a lot of rotation. The game time will be reduced and there will also be a reduction in fatigue for players.

“Any contact sport has injuries. Period. But we just have to get them back into it in the best possible environment and if they’re on the field for less time then there’s less of a risk.”

Maids have been gradually building back up after lockdown. Once again, they’ll have been one of the first sides to return to training after restrictions were eased and have recently played in touch matches to improve their sharpness, fitness and conditioning. Mobbs-Smith is keen for the squad to gain as much experience as possible before the start of the new season, with players having missed out on so much rugby because of the pandemic.

“Most clubs are conscious of trying to get games back on, and to get back up and running,” he said. “But they also want to look after their players.

“We played our last touch game against Tring last weekend and we’ll play our first contact match with adaptive laws away to Oxford Harlequins this weekend.

“We’re calling these post season matches because we normally wouldn’t be playing matches in May.

“But I want to give some of our younger players an opportunity before pre-season because they haven’t played a lot of adult rugby. To give them some game time with these adaptive laws because they’ve missed out on a lot of experience over the last 14 months.

“They’ve gone from getting some minutes off the bench last season to maybe starting this season, and they’ll do that without having that learning curve. “So, we’re trying to get that in there. We’ve got three fixtures planned in this post season and three more in pre-season, so that will give them six games.

“As far as I’m aware, when we go back, we will be playing full rugby with mauls and scrums, the two main things that are missing right now.”

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