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Player welfare top of the agenda as rugby returns with a packed schedule

The unprecedented amount of rugby set to be played over the next 12 months is going to take a huge physical toll on players, with Premiership Rugby in negotiations with top-flight players over how best to manage their welfare.

Premiership Rugby is set to return this month with a packed schedule; A delight for fans, sponsors, and others missing the wonderful game. However, the congested fixture list may haunt players, placing incredible demands upon their welfare, risking injury and fatigue.

Players may welcome the challenge the new fixtures impose. But one may worry their key assets may come at a cost. Despite wanting to please the fans who have been gasping to witness live rugby since lockdown. The demands placed on players need to be assessed and considered – is it really worth it?

Club directors and players understand the desire for rugby to return. The risk of injury and reduction in the salary cap for next season may be harsh decisions to take moving forward.

Rugby star, Stuart McInally has said, “our jobs rely on the revenue coming in, and we have had a brilliant three months off. Maybe it is time to knuckle down and find ourselves playing a bit more this year. That might just be the way of it.”

“I can see both sides. As a player the last thing you want to do is burn yourself out and risk more injuries.”

The provisional date for next season is November 21, four weeks after the Premiership final.

During that time, players will have to prepare for a new season while international fixtures are introduced. The new season is sure to be a test to players and coaching staff, who working tirelessly behind-the-scenes making sure players are fit for the upcoming fixtures.

“Do we limit the number of minutes? Do we put an additional rest period within the next few weeks? Do we limit back-to-back games?” says Phil Winstanley, Director at Premiership Rugby.

Listening to players needs will become ever so important, as backroom staff study data from training sessions and matches to make vital decisions. Being able to use squad rotation will also be significant. Pressure will surround sides who are scrapping for a top-four spot or attempting to enter the top-six due to a lack of rotation among their starting line-up.

Whereas, if clubs are able to rotate, they’ll be able to plan for the following season, giving well deserved rest to key players in addition to giving upcoming stars experience to help their progression. Rotation may also benefit the national team, as players will get some much-needed rest before the international fixtures commence. In addition, mid-week games will test the demands of players and squad selection, as the games aim to help the league cope with the rescheduling.

Many different factors need to be considered when the restart begins to make sure it’s as much as a success as possible. Though, those predominantly involved, the players, need to be at the heart of all decisions. Therefore, ultimately protecting their welfare and product of rugby when it returns.

Author: James Parker