THE Welsh Rugby Union has outlined plans for the return of the community game this summer, nearly 18 months after Covid-19 put a stop to all competitions.

The first 15-a-side matches for men and women, played under modified laws to reduce contact in the scrum and maul, are set to run from August to December.

The competitions in question will comprise a regional group stage and open knockout phase.

In the men’s game there will be an Indigo Group Premiership Cup and Championship Cup along with a Plate, Bowl and Shield for National League clubs.

For the women, WRU national clubs will compete in a North Wales Cup, South Wales Cup and South Wales Plate along the same lines.

WRU chairman Rob Butcher said: “We are thrilled to be able to announce these plans as we move further towards returning to the full game safely.

“On behalf of the WRU community board, and WRU board, we felt that the structure of these competitions, and the modified laws will provide a framework for participation in the grassroots game.

“As we look forward to matches at this level, it’s important that Welsh Government guidelines and our rugby values remain at the heart of everything we do.”

WRU community director Geraint John added: “We want to encourage as many male and female players of all ages and abilities as possible to return to enjoying the game of rugby and we believe the format of these 15-a-side competitions, along with the forthcoming seven and 10-a-side competitive block, will help achieve that, while progressing towards league rugby.

“We have all missed competitive rugby and, along with coaching support, the modified laws for all formats minimise close contact initially and help us work towards full contact rugby safely.”

The 15-a-side competitions for men’s teams will kick off from August 7 following six weeks of club versus club sevens and 10-a-side rugby beginning on June 14, while the women’s cup competitions will start in September.

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“We are indebted to our volunteers, staff and partners for the huge amount of work put in to get facilities and teams to this stage,” said operations director Julie Paterson.

“This competition structure aligns to Welsh Government strategy of minimising travel during the initial phase where there is an emphasis on enjoyment and local derbies.

“We will continue to work closely with club operations managers to ensure they have all the support needed over the coming months.”

Meanwhile, Pontypool are one club that won’t be returning for summer rugby and will instead start preparations for a Welsh Premiership promotion push in the autumn.

“We are not going to participate in a competition of that ilk,” said Pooler chief Ben Jeffreys. “The structure of the competition isn’t that sound as far as I am concerned.

“If you don’t play a game you forfeit it and give up five points. At our level it would only take a couple of cases within the squad to derail the whole programme anyway.

“The second reason [for not participating] is that it’s just too soon.

“When you look at the fact that we are going to probably start a league campaign in January or February then coming back in June or July and having that competition, then having a winter break and then going again in the push for promotion doesn’t work for us.

“In terms of a schedule, it’s way off, so we are sticking to our guns and will arrange our own pre-season.

“We will probably reconvene as a squad in October, have a two or three-month training programme including some pre-season fixtures to gear us up for the league campaign.”