THE Welsh Rugby Union has revealed its plans for the sport’s return with a seven-step plan which culminates in the resumption of league action next January.

The plan is set to give rugby in Wales a much-needed boost following the impact of Covid-19 and ensure the community game bounces back to full health.

Players under the age of 18 are already set to return to organised training from Saturday, pending confirmation from Welsh Government.

And now, providing public health conditions remain “favourable”, tag and touch rugby fixtures for under-18s begin on April 1.

Measures around training and matches, including access to facilities and any travel restrictions, will remain subject to government guidelines.

All levels of the game, including youth and senior teams, can look forward to a phased return of limited contact training from May 1.

From mid-June, players of all ages will be able to take part in a month of summer sevens and 10s rugby under modified laws.

Clubs and teams will be able to use the mid-summer period to arrange midweek and weekend matches within agreed, modified formats to ease players back into competitive contact rugby.

This period will lead into the phased return of 15-a-side rugby and incorporate full contact training.

A set of modified laws has been agreed so friendly 15-a-side matches can be sanctioned from mid-July, and formal WRU competitions, possibly in a knockout format, are set to kick-off in August.

There is a planned winter break from December to mid-January, which has been identified as a potential high-risk period from a public health perspective.

WRU League rugby for male senior and youth teams is set to start in mid-January and run through to May 2022. The new season for the female game will start at the same time.

WRU chair Rob Butcher said: “We know there is a strong desire within the community game to get back on the field. Rugby clubs are at the heart of our communities and we all miss the social interaction they provide.

“As soon as Welsh Government guidelines allow, we will sanction the gradual and safe return of rugby activities, provided the clubs have all the necessary protocols in place.

“We will continue to support the hundreds of community rugby volunteers in doing this.

“They have played such an important role over the past year as always.

“We had around 300 WRU clubs when the pandemic hit us a year ago and our priority is to come out of this with all those clubs and other community teams in a position to welcome back their players, coaches, volunteers and members to their facilities.

“We are confident this can be achieved having worked closely with clubs on all matters including funding streams, Welsh Government and local authority support, help accessing additional equipment needed at this time including PPE, and guidance in putting appropriate systems and protocols in place to keep everyone as safe as possible.”

WRU operations director Julie Paterson added: “Our rugby family is more enthusiastic than ever to get back to a stage where matches can take place and players, volunteers, families and supporters can benefit once again from all the physical, social and mental benefits rugby uniquely provides within our communities.”