Leinster and Munster returned to collective rugby training today for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic shut sport, and the rest of the country, down in March.

140 players and staff on Wednesday were tested for coronavirus last week and all results came back negative. 

Munster said that their players were training in strictly separated 'pods' of seven, with "stringent hygiene measures" around using gym equipment and no showers, changing room facilities, kitchen areas or video analysis rooms available.

Players and staff will have their temperature checked daily with a contactless scanner - to ensure it is below 37.5C - before being allowed access to the high performance centre in Limerick while the majority of the Academy squad have not returned to training to limit the number of people on site

Chris Cloete and CJ Stander have just returned to Ireland due to travel limitations from South Africa and both players are self-isolating for the next 14 days.

Ireland outhalf Joey Carbery is continuing his recovery from ankle surgery and is expected to return in September when Munster should be in action in the knockout stages of the Pro14. 

Tadhg Beirne (ankle) new signing Damian de Allende, Keith Earls and Calvin Nash should all be ready for the league resumption in August.

Leinster are back at their UCD base under the same restrictions and Ireland international Cian Healy was not looking forward to his Bronco (shuttle running) drills.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen was delighted to be able to welcome back players and put them through the rigours of physical testing.

"It's good to be back," he said "It’s great seeing some of the faces coming in today, the guys are out there testing away which is great to see and the guys seem to have turned up in very good condition from the naked eye, so we’ll see what the numbers tell us.

"We’ve had our challenges over the last few months but we seem to be getting that little bit closer, so full credit to everyone in the IRFU and everyone here behind the scenes who put in a huge amount of work to be able to get us to this point."

A full Leinster squad update will be available on Tuesday, after the results of players' fitness tests become available.

Ulster and Connacht staff and players will undergo testing this week ahead of their scheduled return to training next Monday.

It has been almost four months since either province played a match and the Pro14 season has been abridged, with just two rounds of local derbies in each country now remaining.

Leinster and Munster will face each other at the Aviva Stadium in their first game back on 22 August with Ulster and Connacht squaring off in Dublin on the same weekend.

Leinster conclude their regular season campaign against Ulster a week later when Munster take on Connacht, again at the Aviva.

The top two in each Conference will then proceed to semi-finals on 5 September with the final on 12 September at a yet to be confirmed venue.

Leinster are already guaranteed to top Conference A while Ulster (A), Munster (B) and Edinburgh (B) are likely to take the remaining three slots.

Qualification for European qualification for next season will be decided on the table positions at the end of round 13, with unplayed games from that round deemed 0-0 draws. That means Connacht should join the other three provinces in an expected expansion of the Champions Cup to 24 teams next season.