SOMETHING resembling normality will resume tomorrow for a number of Scotland’s senior professional players when they come out of furlough and start contact training again.

They have not exactly been glued to their sofas since going on furlough in April, having first had individual fitness programmes to work on and then more recently been in training by invitation at Murrayfield – again, as individuals. Nonetheless, this has to be seen as the most significant move yet towards a return to rugby as we know it.

Because rugby, at heart, is not about individual gym work or weights or running, even though such activities have a part to play in training. It is about working as a group, and it is about physicality: brutal, bone-shuddering physicality.

After three months of being forced to refrain from that key element of their trade, the Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby players who are in the first wave of returnees can be expected to go about their business with a fair amount of relish when contact training resumes. In fact, far from cajoling them into greater effort, their coaches are likely to spend more time reminding them to go easy at first.

Except for those players who have suffered long-term injuries, these past three months have been the longest period away from the sport that any of them have experienced since their school days, so a gradual return is necessary.

In the case of the Warriors contingent, that return would ideally have taken place at Scotstoun, and they will surely not entirely feel that normal service has been resumed until they are back at their own ground. The return could still take place as early as next week, but in the meantime, they are at least training on their own at Oriam on the outskirts of the capital rather than along with their Edinburgh rivals at Murrayfield.

New Glasgow head coach Danny Wilson will be just as eager as his players to reconvene at Scotstoun and start planning for the double-header against Edinburgh on 22 and 29 August, while his counterpart Richard Cockerill will also see the coming weeks as a uniquely fascinating challenge. Officially, the two rounds of matches coming up next month will complete a truncated regular season in the PRO14, ending the conference stage after 15 games rather than the planned 21. But better by far, surely, for the players to view those matches as the start of a new mini-season – one in which there are potentially rich rewards for some.

In Edinburgh’s case, the incentive to hit the ground running is simple. Win the next four games – the two against Glasgow then the semi-final and final – and they will be PRO14 champions for the first time.

What they did last autumn is now irrelevant apart from the simple fact that the points they gained there have brought them to this position of strength at the top of Conference B. Their fate is in their own hands: if they beat Glasgow twice they will finish top, an achievement which will give them a home semi-final and see them avoid unbeaten Leinster.

Munster are only two points behind so would draw level if they had two bonus-point wins while Edinburgh had two four-point victories, but Cockerill’s team would retain top spot as they would have won more games. As they are already 10 points clear of third-place Scarlets, even two losses would see Edinburgh through to the last four provided they picked up at least one bonus point.

Needless to say, Cockerill will not be planning to go into the semis having lost his two preceding games, but the derbies will be far from easy even though Glasgow, currently third in Conference A, have little chance of reaching the play-offs. Wilson’s team, third in Conference A, could win twice against Edinburgh yet still fail to reach the semis – but you can rest assured that they will hardly be taking a fatalistic approach to the double-header. Indeed, with nothing to lose they can go all out to win with the pressure off, while Edinburgh will have to deal with a significant burden of expectation.

The key task for both coaches will be how to ensure their players hit the ground running and rediscover the form they were in the weeks leading up to the shutdown in March. With rugby yet to resume in Europe, Cockerill and Wilson may find it useful to make the odd phone call to those English football clubs who have performed exceptionally well – and perhaps even those who have done really badly – over the past month.

Going into their Championship fixture yesterday against Stoke, for example, Brentford had won all seven of their games since the competition resumed in mid-June. Their promotion rivals West Brom, by contrast, had won three, drawn three and lost one (the one being to Brentford).

In the top flight, Norwich’s first eight games on their return – seven in the league and an FA Cup quarter-final – all ended in defeat. Their 1-0 defeat to Chelsea on Tuesday confirmed their relegation from the Premier League. True, they were already in trouble before lockdown, but rivals such as Aston Villa and Bournemouth have hardly done much better. Survival was a possibility.

Momentum can be generated quickly after a long break. For Wilson and Cockerill, the task of doing so begins in earnest from tomorrow.