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Alien conditions for seasonal mid-point

Normally in June, most professional rugby players are able to relax, recline and soak up rays abroad. But, as we all know, there is no normal in 2020.

Just as the UK basks in a scorching spell of weather, players are going through their paces in the first-ever mid-season pre-season.

It cannot be easy.

For one, those players have not had to hit a tackle or make a break since early in March.

Second, their body clocks are wondering what on earth is going on.

For the most experienced players, like Dan Cole, they are in the midst of their longest break from playing in their professional lives. Yet they are still technically in mid-season.

The campaign started nine months ago – after what we thought then was a hugely long pre-season due to the World Cup schedule – but it has been in abeyance for more than three months and still has some distance to go.

The season will, if it takes its natural course after the proposed restart date in August, run beyond the first anniversary of its original kick-off date back in September 2019.

Up until their return to Phase One last week, players have had to train alone at home, trying to maintain their cardiovascular fitness, doing whatever weights they could and somehow retaining motivation to get through it without the pointers normally – there’s that word again – supplied by strength and conditioning coaches or from their everyday benchmarking alongside their team-mates. All without any idea of when the finishing line will come into sight.

Now they can at least join social-distanced training at the training ground, with more running and more weights, while getting used to a whole new format for their days.

This week that has also meant coping with temperatures up into the 30s while still almost two months away from the proposed return-to-play date in August.

The first stepping stones in that return plan have started to fall into place, with Premiership Rugby targeting the weekend of August 15 for a comeback and European Rugby identifying weekends in September and October to play their tournaments to a conclusion.

With none of the usual anchor points in the rugby calendar and our everyday lives due to the pandemic, perhaps by then we’ll need to add the day and date to a stadium scoreboard so we can all check exactly where we are. And if the weather continues along this path, maybe a thermometer too.