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Ealing Trailfinders 1871 - the Covid Years
Date: 11-04-2019 00:00
Type: Other
Section: Adults

The rules for the new Ealing Rugby 1871 Club were signed on 11th April 2019, with the Club being formally affiliated to the RFU soon after and commencing completion at the start of the 2019/20 season. Little did we know at this time that coronavirus was probably already well cooked and about to make a dramatic impact on the Club, and society as a whole.

As it became clearer that we were in for a long haul the Club took the conscious decision to stay active, to keep training as best we could, to keep our players engaged, and to be prepared for the post COVID-19 recovery. For the season from 1st July 2020 to 30th June 2021 we ran 56 training sessions with an average attendance of 42 players at each session. That was an excellent outcome.

This is a story about a period which was, hopefully, unique in our lifetime.

Timeline author: Paul Clarke

11th April 2019

Ealing Rugby 1871 is born

On this day the rules for the new Club were formally signed. This new Club was created to enable the first team to compete in the RFU competitions. Prior to this the team competed in Merit Leagues, notably the Middlesex Merit Leagues and the Zoo Shield leagues. The Club was formally affiliated into the RFU shortly after the rules were signed, enabling the first team to compete in the RFC competitions for the 2019/20 season.

30th July 2019

1871 July Report

This included the statement "It was decided to create a second affiliation to the RFU and enter a new team Ealing Trailfinders 1871 into the RFU London Division, starting in Herts & Middlesex Division Two.
Ealing Trailfinders 1871 in H&M2
Ealing Trailfinders U23s in Zoo Shield Two
Ealing Trailfinders 1871 2nds in MMT1
Ealing Exiles in MMT4
Ealing Evergreens in MMT Vets
Ealing Traifinders U18s/U20s in friendly fixtures"

17th August 2019

Mark Percival appointed Head Coach

The early part of 2019 was a period of great upheaval caused by the resignation of Academy Director of Rugby John Lacey, Academy Manager Annie Lyndon and the subsequent departure of Men's Head Coach Nick Lambert. This resulted in a merger of the Men's Section and Academy Section. In addition Mark Percival was appointed Head Coach for all Men's Section teams.

14th September 2019

Ealing 1871 55 - 29 Actonians

Ealing Trailfinders 1871 play first game in RFU leagues with comfortable home win. Match report HERE.

1st December 2019

First case of COVID-19 reported

The first case of COVID-19 was reported Dec. 1, 2019, and the cause was a then-new coronavirus later named SARS-CoV-2. SARS-CoV-2 may have originated in an animal and changed (mutated) so it could cause illness in humans.

31st December 2019

Coronavirus is formally identified

On 31 December 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was informed of a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. A novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) was subsequently identified from patient samples.

1st January 2020

Pitchero goes live

We finally decided to replace our hand-built email and spreadsheet system for managing availability, training and selection with a new system - Pitchero. A small team of volunteer users tested this during December and the new system went live on New Year's Day. Pitchero transformed our record keeping, especially attendance at training, and it has enabled us to collect a massive number of metrics which are now stored offline and for perpetuity.

3rd March 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance

The government issues first of a number of guidance statements HERE.

12 March 2020 Added COVID-19: stay at home guidance.
13 March 2020 Information on symptoms updated.
13 March 2020 Added COVID-19: residential care, supported living and home care guidance.
16 March 2020 Added COVID-19: guidance on social distancing and for vulnerable people.
17 March 2020 Added guidance for mass gatherings.

10th March 2020

Cheltenham Festival goes ahead

The Jockey Club, the owner of the Cheltenham Festival, has defended its decision to proceed with last month’s four-day event after Andrew Parker Bowles, the former husband of the Duchess of Cornwall, became the latest high-profile attendee to report subsequent symptoms consistent with infection by COVID-19.
The Festival opened on 10 March with at least 60,000 racegoers in attendance each afternoon, while 68,500 were at the track to see the Cheltenham Gold Cup on 13 March - four days before Boris Johnson announced extensive UK-wide lockdown measures.
As well as Parker Bowles, the comedian Lee Mack and footballer Charlie Austin are among racegoers to have subsequently reported symptoms of COVID-19 infection, along with two local men who were working at bars or restaurants at the course during the meeting.

11th March 2020

Coronavirus - This is important!

This email was sent to all Ealing 1871 players, managers, coaches and supporters. Similar emails were sent to all Club members.

"Regarding the risk posed by coronavirus the Club is following the advice issued by the RFU which, in simple terms, is “do as the government says”. This advice can be found via the link at the end of this message. The website is updated daily so keep up-to-date with its contents. As we know the recent movements of the players selected for this weekend we know that none are impacted by the current advice.
Advise Ricky if you think that you may be affected. This includes concerns due to recent travel. or by being in contact with anyone diagnosed or displaying symptoms of coronavirus, or by feeling symptoms of coronavirus yourself.
Sincerely, Paul Clarke"

20th March 2020

Message from RFU

In short the message says “wait until 1st April re news on RFU leagues, NW Middx Final can be played in late August or early September, no end of season playoffs in MMTs so only one team promoted and relegated, identifying our champions and bottom side is going to take some work, this will be sorted by 27th March.
Adult competitions - we are currently looking into the implications on, and options for, the conclusion of our Adult Men’s and Adult Women’s competitions for this season. This review work is expected to take the next few weeks and a final position is unlikely to be clear until April."

23rd March 2020

First National Lockdown

All “non-essential” high street businesses were closed and people were ordered to stay at home, permitted to leave for essential purposes only, such as buying food or for medical reasons.

There were mixed feelings about the restrictions at the time, the majority of which speculated on whether the restrictions would last for one month, or two months even. Some notable doomsayers predicted that we wouldn't play at all during 2020/21 (Rob Williams!) but they were proved correct.
The mood within the Club was one of stubborn optimism, based on a "we can only play what is in front of us" attitude which meant we continued to plan to ensure that we secured best results for all our teams and that we were well prepared for the start of the new season on 1st July.

2nd April 2020

Ealing 1871 win league

It is now clear to the RFU that all rugby must cease. The competition winners are decided on a pro rata basis. Ealling 1871 receives official confirmation from RFU that it is league winner. Rugby World reports that Ealing 1871 win league at first attempt,
See league standings HERE.

16th April 2020

Don't Drop The Ball - Thank You NHS

Ealing Trailfinders Youth players do their bit in support of the NHS during COVID-19 lockdown. This VIDEO is featured on national TV.

20th April 2020

1871 Plans Announcement

"Percy, Ricky and I had a good meeting using Skype last night. This worked well using a shared screen for viewing documents. The purpose was to continue the planning activities for the new season and we have more planning sessions scheduled. We know that we have to wait for government and RFU clearance to resume rugby but this doesn’t prevent us from preparing. Far from it. Hopefully we'll be able to get back into action early in the summer.
The first action is to postpone the club dinner and reschedule this for late summer. Some clubs routinely hold the club dinner as a start-of-season event. We want to be in the position of announcing the club dinner event as soon as we receive clearance. I’ll contact the club dinner planning team with more details.
Percy will prepare a training programme for the players to follow during downtime. Players need to keep fit. In support of this Ricky is going to do some planning for a pre-season weekend boot camp. This is all part of ensuring that we are fully prepared for the start of the new season.
There will be more news to follow so make sure that your Pitchero account is configured properly to ensure that you see all of the messages. Contact me if you need assistance.
Sincerely, Paul."

21st April 2020

Club Dinner Postponed

The Club Dinner booked for Friday 1st May has been postponed. Despite this planning has commenced. The intent is to hold this event as soon as RFU permission is granted. We can use the event to celebrate our playing successes plus our exit from the virus crisis.
An interim event is planned using Zoom. Despite this plans for the new season continue.

30th April 2020

1871 April Report

This report outlines the preparations for the 2020/21 season.
It is currently planned for the teams to play in the following competitions during the 2020-21 season.

Ealing Trailfinders 1871
Herts/Middx 1 league
London & SE Division Junior Vase
Middlesex RFU Senior Cup
Middlesex RFU North West Floodlit Cup
Ealing Trailfinders 1871 2nds
Middlesex Merit Table Division 1
Middlesex Merit Table Cup
Ealing Exiles
Middlesex Merit Table Division 4
Middlesex Merit Table Vase
Ealing Evergreens
Middlesex Merit Table Veterans Division

In addition Ealing Trailfinders U21 team will play a small number of friendly fixtures, especially those that involve distance students who return during term breaks.
This playing programme is subject to changes as the RFU responds to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

13th May 2020

Zoom Workouts Comment

S&C Coach Kavan Fitzpatrick runs the first of his regular Zoom-based fitness sessions.

18th May 2020

Memorial Game Cancelled

Playing restrictions cause cancellation of the annual Exiles v Evergreens Memorial Game.

19th June 2020

ZOOM-based Club Dinner

Details and video HERE.

17th June 2020

Return To Rugby Stage B

The RFU defines a Return To Rugby Roadmap HERE and we are at Stage B. Monthly report states "We have achieved our training targets with 90+ different players attending the training sessions with an average of 55 per session. These numbers have been assisted by the arrival of 15 new faces this season. Thus these impressive numbers have been delivered due to the combination of excellent retention plus new season recruitment.
Over the month we focussed position and unit specific training on a Monday and ability specific (mixed position) groups on a Wednesday. The scope was constrained by the Stage B RFU regulations which permit socially distanced training in groups of no more than six players. Despite this the attitude and focus across the squad is very positive."

To safeguard the players Ealing 1871 defines the first of a series of Risk Assessments with the first of these HERE.

16th July 2020

Covid Training

Socially distanced, six in a group, Stage B distanced training spread over two pitches.

18th July 2020


Saturday 18th July marked a day for Ealing Trailfinders 1871 players to say thanks to the NHS for their continued support and work throughout these unprecedented times! The 1871 players came to the club (whilst socially distancing) with the aim of running 188km, which is equivalent to a lap around the M25, within 12 hours and setting a target of £5,000 in sponsorship. See details HERE.

1st August 2020

Return To Rugby Stage C

The monthly report states "The anticipated move of the Return to Rugby Roadmap from Stage B to Stage C happened early in August and we restructured our training scheme and management support to accommodate this expanded scope.
During August we delivered six sessions (averaging 55 to 60+ players) and one ‘Down Week’, where the squad trained away from the club.
Progress has been seen from a conditioning, skill development and tactical understanding perspective.".

Despite the lockdown training numbers remain very healthy. A new playing format is introduced by the RFU: Ready4Rugby.

15th August 2020

Boot Camp cancelled

The training boot camp which was planned in August has been cancelled. Top quality facilities had been secured on the campus at Brunel University in Uxbridge. However the general uncertainty due to coronavirus meant this camp wasn't possible.

31st August 2020

Return To Rugby Stage D

The RFU takes us by surprise as monthly report now states "Right at the end of the month the RFU unexpectedly announced a further move of the Return to Rugby Roadmap from Stage C to Stage D. We have not yet had time to assess the implications of moving to Stage D."

7th September 2020

Return To Rugby Stage D

Latest report now states "At the end of August the RFU unexpectedly announced a further move of the Return to Rugby Roadmap from Stage C to Stage D. Stage D supports contact training in groups of up to six players for 15 minutes maximum per training session and intra-club matches in groups of a maximum of 20 players as was defined for Stage C.
During September we delivered seven sessions (averaging 40+ players) and one ‘Down Week’, where the squad trained away from the club. Numbers of players training is decreasing due to students returning to University.
Progress has been seen from a conditioning, skill development and tactical understanding perspective and the players have responded well to more ‘normal’ rugby training."

Yet another version of the Risk Assessment is issued.
An 1871 Management Group meeting was a success during the down week, allowing the group to finalise operations moving into Ready4Rugby fixtures in October. It also gave the coaches an opportunity to discuss selection and team strategy for this new format of the game.

15th October 2020

Ready4Rugby has some issues

October report states "The players hugely enjoyed the Ready4Rugby fixtures but these were not without problems.
Referees have been inconsistent in applying the new rules, and also struggle with the high tempo full pitch fixtures which do not include breaks for scrums and lineouts. The Stage D social distancing regulations are being applied inconsistently by some clubs during away fixtures.
It is recognised that 1871 has been rigorously applying its comprehensive procedures defined in the Risk Assessments. This is spearheaded by our resident "Colonel Covid", our 1871 Chairman Steve Weekes. Steve has also attended Middlesex RFU meetings and has volunteered to work with County to help overcome some of these problems.

31st October 2020

Return To Rugby goes back to Stage C

During October three Ealing 1871 teams played 10 Ready4Rugby fixtures, with five friendlies and five league fixtures. The results were Won 6, Drawn 0, Lost 4. This included victories over local rivals Ruislip and level six Belsize Park.

BUT the latest government lockdown due to COVID-19 means that all field-based activities cease during November. We replace field-based activities with twice weekly Zoom-based squad sessions led by coaches plus two Zoom sessions where content is chosen from a list of six options depending on the personal needs of the players.

27th November 2020

Return To Rugby Stage E

The RFU surprises us again and announces that Stage E Return of Adapted Contact Training and Fixtures would be permitted, with the first fixtures able to take place after 18th December. This is extremely good, and unexpected, news that dominates our plans for December.

20th December 2020

Return To Rugby Stage A

On Sunday 20th December the government restrictions for Ealing and surrounding areas became subject to COVID-19 Tier 4 restrictions and this, in turn, caused the RFU to announce that its Return to Rugby Roadmap for adult rugby has moved from Stage E back to Stage A. This is extremely disappointing news that dominates our plans for January and beyond. No adult rugby training or fixtures can take place until these restrictions are eased.

January, February 2021

No rugby at all

Stage A prevents any organised face-to-face training being arranged. As a result no training activities are planned for January due to lockdown.

5th March 2021

Return To Rugby Roadmap reactivated

The RFU Return to Community Rugby Roadmapis revised on 5th March 2021 and defines a six stage roadmap for the return to rugby for community clubs. This roadmap gradually introduces contact training and competitions following Adapted Laws, to full on training and competition with all restrictions lifted, over a three month period.

27th March 2021

Peter Green RIP

The funeral service was held on Friday 23rd April at GreenAcres Chiltern. Due to COVID-19 attendance was restricted.

Peter joined Ealing Rugby Club in the late 1970s playing No 8 for the senior sides for many years. He was a keen tourist and went on several tours including Lourdes and the USA. He then joined the Evergreens for a few more years and was Evergreens Captain for a season. As a non-playing member, he persuaded his company Redhat to sponsor the professional Club and then privately sponsored the amateur Club on his retirement. See more details HERE.

April 2021

Return To Rugby Stage D1 & D2

The RFU Return to Community Rugby Roadmap is revised on 5th March 2021 and defines a six stage roadmap for the return to rugby for community clubs. This roadmap gradually introduces contact training and competitions following Adapted Laws, to full on training and competition with all restrictions lifted, over a three month period.

Latest report now states "We revised our training programme to concentrate on Stage D1 with the emphasis being on conditioning the players rather than contact training. Training recommenced on 29th March. Over seventy players attended this first session demonstrating the pent up demand for rugby within the 1871 squad."

Yet another Risk Assessment is produced.

15th May 2021

Return To Rugby Stage D2

Two Adapted Laws fixtures took place at Vallis Way on 15th May. These games included further agreed modifications to the laws to allow: touch rugby, 15 players per team, simulated scrums, freedom to kick, and lineouts.
Ealing 1871 1sts 14 - 29 Belsize Park 1sts
Ealing 1871 2nds 12 - 5 Belsize Park 2nds

May 2021

Memorial Game Cancelled

Playing restrictions cause cancellation of the annual Exiles v Evergreens Memorial Game.

June 2021

Club Dinner Postponed

The anticipated release from COVID-19 restrictions on 21st June was postponed so we remained at Stage D2 for all of June.
The Club Dinner, to include awards for 2019/20 and 2020/21 is postponed again. However a backup date is already reserved for 23rd July.

July 2021

Return To Rugby Stage E1 & E2

During July the RFU introduced Stage E1 and announced Stage E2. The RFU has not yet confirmed when Stage F will be introduced but we are optimistic that this will happen on 18th August. At this point all restrictions are lifted.

23rd July 2021

Club Dinner finally takes place

The Club 150th Dinner 2021 takes place at Vallis Way.
Awards spanned two seasons with 2019/20 caps being awarded plus those awards given at the Zoom based ceremony held at the end of the 2019/20 season. In addition the Middlesex RFU trophy for winning the Herts & Middx Division Two was presented together with individual club awards to each player who played in this competition. A new award for those who have played one hundred or more times for The Club with at least one of these being for Ealing 1871 was made to 22 players in attendance at the dinner.
For the 2020/21 season no awards were given for competitive performance in matches. The Sportsmanship Cup was awarded plus three Covid-era awards for the Student, Young and Training Players of the Year.

18th August 2021

All restrictions were lifted.

RFU Return to Community Rugby Roadmap V1 revised on 5th March 2021 defines a six stage roadmap for the return to rugby for community clubs. This roadmap gradually introduces contact training and competitions following Adapted Laws, to full on training and competition with all restrictions lifted, over a three month period.
On 18th August the RFU introduced Stage F and all restrictions were lifted.

6th October 2021

NW Middx Floodlit Cup Final

The 2020/21 NW Middx Cup Final eventually took place. Ealing 1871 v Uxbridge was played at Ruislip. Ealing score deep into added time to secure a 21 - 17 win. Match report HERE.

A Long Story

The story of Covid at the Club turned out to be a much longer story that anyone expected. Thankfully the Covid outbreak is now manageable, and the symptoms are treated with a level or urgency similar to flu. Many of the Club members were infected by Covid and most have made a full recovery.

But not all. There are a significant number who have Long Covid symptoms which are, for the most part, manageable. But there are a handful who still struggle with much more serious, and in some cases, life-changing, Long Covid symptoms.

Let us not forget them.

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