Leinster Rugby has submitted plans to Government to use rapid antigen testing to allow the return of spectators to matches at the RDS Arena.

Leinster are seeking to host a trial match next month and say their proposal is approved by the IRFU.

The province have made the submission as a direct response to the Government's Rapid Testing Group's recommendation to immediately implement such trial events.

Pre-match antigen testing would take place by appointment and would be on site at the RDS.

Capacity would be capped at 2,000 spectators, just 11% of normal match-day capacity.

Leinster members would be part of a ballot to buy pairs of tickets and each attending pair of spectators must come from the same household or Covid-19 bubble.

The antigen testing centre would open on matchday from 7am, with testing by appointment only through a mobile app, similar to one used in the UK and approved by their government.

Access to the RDS Arena to attend the match will be on the basis of each spectator receiving a negative antigen test result.

Spectators, who have received a negative result, will be segregated into four separate zones of the stadium in groups of 500 people.

Each zone will have their own entry and exit points and facilities. Seating will be on the basis of two metres social distancing between each pair and wearing of face masks will be compulsory.

Any spectator in receipt of a positive antigen result would have Covid-19 PCR test organised on site or using the current HSE testing system.

They would not be permitted to attend the game, nor would their companion.

The Department of Sport responded with a statement acknowledging the proposal and noting that a working group with representatives from Sport Ireland and the three main field sports had submitted proposed guidelines on the return of spectators for approval by government.

The statement observed that, subject to public health restrictions at the time: "To begin to work towards significant attendances at large sporting events, we will need to convene a number of smaller test events"

"The Department can confirm receipt of a proposal involving spectators at a Leinster Rugby Event which will be examined in consultation with the relevant public health authorities. It will be considered in light of the report on the return of spectators and when epidemiological circumstances allow."

Leinster CEO Mick Dawson said: "What we are offering the Government is a pilot test event that meets all the recommendations of the Rapid Testing Groups’ Report.

"This is an opportunity to show that matches with supporters are possible, under strict testing, supervision and management of course, and that there is a roadmap ahead that rugby and indeed all sports and events can follow.

"The lessons that we could all take from hosting such a trial match would be invaluable as the wider sports and entertainment industry looks to recover from the effects of the last 12 months and looks forward to a better and a brighter future when we can hope to resume some level of normality.

"At some stage we have to take those first steps, and we believe that we have a robust and safe plan in place that will allow us to do just that, and plan for the safe return of all supporters from the beginning of next season.

"This is an expertly researched project, which has been subject to robust scrutiny at every level, and we see it as a key contribution to the government’s efforts to return our country to some form of normality. This initiative has the potential to be used as a blueprint by all sporting, cultural and community organisations for the safe return of limited crowds to their events.

"In October 2020, a combined working party from the FAI, GAA and the IRFU submitted proposals to the Department of Sport around the return of supporters to our grounds in a safe and Covid-19 compliant manner.

"The report made a number of recommendations but in particular the need for trial games ahead of any full re-opening of stadia.

"Similarly, a report was launched last week by the Government’s Rapid Testing Group, chaired by Professor Mark Ferguson, which also recommended the immediate use of antigen testing on a trial basis in schools, colleges, workplaces and sporting organisations, as an additional tool to help fight the spread of Covid-19.

"Leinster Rugby has been working with key stakeholders for a number of months to finalise plans for a phased re-opening of the RDS Arena.

"We are confident that we have the infrastructure in place to ensure a safe and efficient trial and Martin Murphy, Chair of the combined working party, has written to the Department of Sport accordingly, outlining our readiness for such a trial and indeed, as I have stated earlier, our willingness that any data and lessons from such a trial be shared with relevant authorities and with other National Governing Bodies."

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