The Leicester Tigers squad today returned to Oval Park for the first time in three months to begin Phase One of return to training under strict guidelines from government and health officials, as well as the club’s medical staff and working groups from Premiership Rugby and the RFU.
In Phase One of training, players are only permitted to take part in strength and conditioning and skills sessions while adhering to social distancing in small groups.
Before entering the site, all players and staff are temperature checked and only granted entry if they have completed necessary paperwork and questionnaires.
As well as limited training duties, players are also not permitted to use any facilities other than the Tigers gym – which includes only a select number of machines, separated by screens at more than a 2m distance – and outdoor pitches at Oval Park, while on-site at the club’s training ground.
The players changing room, kitchen and dining hall, indoor training pitch and recovery facilities are the areas that remain off-limits during Phase One of a return to training.
Speaking about the new-look training schedule, the club’s soon-to-be Director of Rugby Geordan Murphy admitted it was going to take some “getting used to” for the playing group during Phase One.
“It’s certainly a new-look environment and I think it will take some getting used to for the lads,” Murphy said.
“Staff have been working hard since lock-down began to ensure everything that is required to be done is in place for the squad during Phase One and, while it will be very different to what they are used to, we have created a safe environment for them to be able to return to some form of squad work.
“Rugby is a unique sport that presents plenty of obstacles that we still need to overcome before we move to Phase Two and beyond, including playing fixtures again, and it’s exciting to be able to move forward towards that with today’s start.”
Club captain Tom Youngs, England internationals George Ford, Dan Cole, Ellis Genge, Ben Youngs and Manu Tuilagi, as well as fellow internationals Telusa Veainu and Tomas Lavanini were among the more than 45 members of the Tigers senior and development squads to take part on day one of Phase One training.
Jordan Taufua and Nephi Leatigaga, who were given leave by the club to return to New Zealand during lock-down, were not present and will re-join their team-mates in Phase One of training later this month, after undertaking a mandatory isolation period upon returning to the United Kingdom.
The five players who were promoted from the club’s academy programme into the development squad ahead of the 2020/21 season also reported for their first session in the senior programme since it was announced in May.
Speaking from home after day one, Tigers skipper Youngs said it was “relieving” to be back among his team-mates.
“It seems ages ago that we were together as a group and it has been frustrating, training alone and unable to play the games that have been postponed,” said Youngs.
“Look, I’m not a good spectator at the best of times, so not have training or games has been twice as hard
“But, this situation is bigger than rugby and to have Phase One starting is relieving for us all and exciting, because we’re moving forward now.”
In addition to the players and Murphy, Tigers’ strength and conditioning coaches and medical staff were on site to ensure all Phase One protocols were adhered to throughout the day.
The club will continue in Phase One of training until it is agreed with government and health officials, as well as Premiership Rugby and the RFU, that Premiership clubs can commence Phase Two.