10:00AM, Friday 25 September 2020
Maidenhead coach David Mobbs-Smith is continuing to prepare his squad for the season potentially kicking off in November, despite the Government ramping up restrictions to curb a rise in COVID-19 infections.
The RFU is expected to let clubs know in the coming weeks whether they can move into the next phase of its roadmap for the return of competitive rugby, enabling them to take part in full-contact training and matches.
However, with the latest restrictions coming into force nationwide, those hopes could be kicked into touch.
Speaking on Monday, Maids’ head coach Mobbs-Smith said: “Things seem to be changing on a day-by-day basis. We’re not in a position where the things we’re being told are finite. But we have a window for the start of the season on November 7 and I’ll prepare for that window until someone tells me it isn’t going to happen.
“If you don’t prepare for that window, and the season does end up going ahead, you won’t be ready. We had a window for a start in September and we were told it wasn’t happening. Now we have a window for November and we’re preparing for that. If that doesn’t happen the next window is January. We’ll just go by what we’re told.”
Clubs would need around four to six weeks of full-contact training to get players ready for the physical demands of league rugby, however, the Government and RFU still has concerns about the close contact between players in the maul, scrum or ruck.
For the past few week’s clubs have been able to step up their training to include touch matches while players are also able to tackle below the knee, however, Maidenhead have opted against doing this at the present time. They have, though, staged two competitive 10-a-side touch competitions in front of spectators at Braywick Park, bringing a ‘semblance of normality’ back to a Saturday afternoon according to the club’s director of rugby Myke Parrott.
“We would need to have a four-week window before we could start contact matches,” said Mobbs-Smith. “That means that by the end of this month an announcement would need to be made by the RFU. Hopefully that happens and if it does it will be full steam ahead for the new season. We’ll slowly introduce contact once we have a start date for the season.”
The club is also set to announce several new signings, with the first of them, David Kilcoyne and Josh Ashby, revealed on the Maids’ twitter account last week. They pulled on the Magenta of Maidenhead in the first of the touch competitions against Windsor and Tring last week. Championship side London Scottish will also be using Maidenhead’s Braywick Park as their training base this season and Mobbs-Smith is excited by the potential benefits for both teams.
“We’ll definitely be doing some stuff with them (London Scottish)” said Mobbs-Smith. “It’s brilliant that they’ve come to Maidenhead. It would be the same if a Championship football club came to Maidenhead.
“It’s great from a rugby point of view but for London Scottish, once they’ve been established for a while, they’ll find they have a new fan base that’s not from London or is Scottish.”
Reflecting on this month’s touch competitions, Mobbs-Smith felt the games had a ‘hell of an edge’ to them and he expects they’ll be beneficial to the club and the players if and when the season does get underway.
“You can’t keep on training indefinitely so to have a bit of competition, even if it’s not the fully fledged format, there’s still a hell of an edge to it. No one wants to lose when there are people in the grandstand watching you. It’s a proper competition, with people running back to defend and diving to make tackles.
You don’t get that in training. The games are also quick and great for fitness while under competitive stress. We’re looking to play a ball in hand game this season so I’m expecting to see the benefits of it when the season starts.”
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