CONTACT training can now resume after the Rugby Football Union (RFU) approved a move to the next step in their road map.

Conditions have allowed the progress from Stage C to Stage D, following permission from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

It permits contact training for the first time since the coronavirus measures came in, but it can be for no more than 15 minutes in a 75-minute session.

Inter-club non-contact fixtures are also now allowed.

The restarting of contact drills is a major step towards getting players ready to play competitive matches again.

Clubs are able to work on tackling, line-outs and rucks, but mauls, scrums, opposed lineouts and upright tackles are still not allowed as the transmission exposure risk remains high.

The contact sessions also have to take place in small groups of no more than six players.

It is still two stages away from a return to complete normality and there is no timeline at this stage for when that might be.

The RFU are due to give an update on their competitions today, but in a message to members, Chinnor’s chairman Simon Vickers felt they would not be playing competitively before November.

Steve Grainger, rugby development director at the RFU, said: “It’s another step on the journey to a return to full contact rugby, although we still have a way to go before we will return to our full programme of competition.

“For rugby union to continue a phased return, there are some fundamental skills that players need to perform, develop and maintain to ensure that they can play in a safe and effective way when a return to contact rugby match play is permitted.

“During the lockdown period all rugby union activity in the community game was suspended from April through to August, resulting over 20 weeks when players have been unable to perform, develop and maintain these fundamental skills.

“Allowing limited contact activity will provide an opportunity for players to sustain these skills, physically prepare for the reintroduction of competitive rugby appropriately, reducing the potential risk of injury whilst also mitigating the infection risk through restricting the type and amount of contact activity.”

Elsewhere, two former Oxford RFC youngsters have been offered professional contracts with Premiership sides.

Charlie Atkinson, who played for the club from under six level to under 14s, has been promoted from the Wasps academy into the senior set-up.

Gabe Goss spent seven years with Oxford and has now been given the chance to become a professional with Bath.