SYDNEY, May 11 (Reuters) - The ACT Brumbies returned to the training ground in Canberra on Monday, the first of Australia’s four Super Rugby sides to do so after social isolation measures introduced to combat COVID-19 were eased around the country.
Neighbouring New Zealand, which has enjoyed similar success in containing the novel coronavirus, announced on Monday its Super Rugby sides would take part in a domestic competition and Australia is expected to follow suit.
With the resumption of Super Rugby impossible because of international travel bans, interim Rugby Australia chief executive Rob Clarke said last week the governing body was hoping to have a domestic competition in place by July.
There are still some restrictions in place, however, so the first Brumbies players to return on Monday were limited to training in groups of 10 with no contact permitted.
Wallabies prop Scott Sio missed what looks like being the final Super Rugby match anywhere in the world this year — against the New South Wales Waratahs on March 15 — because of a hand injury and has spent the lockdown rehabilitating.
“It was really cool to put the kit back on,” he told reporters via Zoom from Canberra.
“I think you draw a lot of energy even though we’re not right next to each other, just from being in each other’s presence there as well.
“It’s a lot of good feel stuff at the moment. A lot better vibes than this time a month ago. I guess we’ll see once we really get going up tomorrow.”
Australian rugby could do with some “good feels” after a torrid few weeks in which the governing body lost a chief executive and a chairman-elect as well as the most likely candidate to lead them into an uncertain future.
Rugby Australia has huge debts and is yet to have its 2019 accounts signed off so is desperate to get its teams back on the pitch to get some revenue flowing.
Western Force, the Perth-based team axed from Super Rugby in 2017 to cut costs but kept alive by mining billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, are widely expected to join the Australian domestic competition along with the four Super Rugby franchises.
That will make for some interesting negotiations for interim chief executive Clarke, who was instrumental in the acrimonious process of axing the Force when he was Rugby Australia’s Chief Operations Officer.
“Decisions were made back then for reasons back then,” Clarke said last week.
“I don’t harbour any grudges ... I can’t speak for them ... but at the end of the day my focus is on trying to unify everyone on the challenges we face.” (Editing by Peter Rutherford)