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Eleanor Cardwell in training for the Vitality Roses.

The Vitality Netball Superleague’s group of Vitality Roses will be returning to court after England Netball revealed a return to training plan for its elite senior team.

This comes after the Government outlined its five stage return to elite sport roadmap and guidance around the conditions that need to be implemented for elite athletes to return to competitive training safely.

The Government guidance states that elite athletes (those who derive a living from competing in a sport and the senior training squad for a relevant sporting body) must follow the existing five phases of its return of elite sport plan, which are as follows:

  1. Stage one – return to a level of organised individual programme training in a defined performance facility while adhering to social distancing advice
  2. Stage two – a level of ‘social clustering’ within the training environment is permitted after stage one has been completed, meaning small groups of athletes and staff will be able to interact in closer contact e.g. sharing equipment and defending an opponent
  3. Stage three – the return to elite competition with no spectators
  4. Stage four – cross border competition with no spectators exclusively involving elite athletes, hosted within the UK, is permitted for individuals essential to the delivery of the competition
  5. Stage five – no restrictions, spectators present

The Vitality Roses will be lacing up their trainers and returning to individual based training (stage one) at two Elite Training Centres in Bisham and Manchester on 21 July. The team will then advance to training in Loughborough (stage two) early August.

Vitality Roses Head Coach, Jess Thirlby, said: “We are really pleased to be able to begin preparing for some on court activity, this is a really positive step for netball’s gradual resumption. Our athletes have been itching to get back on court so this news is very much welcomed.

“Despite our eagerness to begin training together again, we have to be mindful to start small, get the environments right and then grow our training groups from there. Whilst we have big competitions, like the next Commonwealth Games, on the horizon, the health and safety of our players, staff and the Netball Family is our main priority. With this in mind, we are following the Government’s guidance and that of our medical team, as well as speaking to venue staff throughout this process to ensure the Roses’ training environment is optimal.

“There are extensive and strict training protocols that we have to follow to ensure the training environments are optimal for our athletes, and we’re aware it won’t be the normal set up we are used to for a while, but we’re excited to see some form of normality slowly resuming.”

No fixtures for the 2020 international season have yet been confirmed, however England Netball is continuing to look at a variety of options including a behind closed doors tournament for the Vitality Roses.

Jess Thirlby added: “Whilst no fixtures have yet been confirmed due to the continued impact of COVID-19, we are hopeful that we’ll be able to get the Vitality Roses back in the red dress before the year is out. There are lots of moving parts to this so nothing has been confirmed yet, however in the meantime we are putting our focus on getting the team back together and training to full capacity again.”

England Netball has now issued its return to play Roadmap for the community level of the game on its website.

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