THE long path towards a return of some sort of rugby normality will take another significant step forward tomorrow morning when those Glasgow Warriors players who have been brought out of furlough return to their Scotstoun base for the first time in four months. They initially returned to training at Murrayfield on a “voluntary” basis on June 22, before moving to the Oriam facility on the western outskirts of Edinburgh last week, and Glasgow Life have now given the green light for Danny Wilson’s men to come home.

We don’t yet know if even a token crowd will be allowed into Murrayfield for the long-awaited 1872 Cup double-header between Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors on August 22 and 29, but the fact that those games look almost certain to go ahead in even an empty stadium is a cause for celebration.

Not every player on the books at Edinburgh and Glasgow has been brought out of furlough – only those likely to be involved in the truncated end to the 2019-20 season – but those who have returned to the workplace are now back doing contact training in small groups.

The general impression – so far as pro rugby is concerned – is that things are moving forward in the right direction at a cautious but encouraging pace.

Similarly, after weeks of silence, the amateur/part-time game now has a route-map to follow, and clubs have been briefed on Murrayfield’s plans for various season structures for 2020-21 to accommodate the various challenges which could be posed by coronavirus. Everything, of course, is dependent on how Scottish Government manage the easing of lockdown, and the threat of a second wave or localised spikes in Covid-19 means there is an unavoidable element of wait-and-see,

but the general tone amongst the clubs is positive on how Sheila Begbie’s Rugby Development Department is tackling the huge challenge faced.

Credit where credit is due. Scottish Rugby have done a pretty good job of making sure their response to the existential threat posed against the sport as an activity we play and watch has been calm, considered and reasonable.

But – there is always a “but” – a lack of communication from Murrayfield on how they plan to tackle the huge impact this lockdown and ongoing social distancing measures will have on Scottish Rugby as a business is a cause of increasing anxiety.

It is absolutely understandable that chief executive Mark Dodson and his executive team want a certain amount of privacy as they tackle some pretty serious issues, but it is now two months since we were warned by the man in charge that Scottish Rugby faces a period of “significant retrenchment”, and apart from the two pro-team head coaches revealing that their squads are one, or maybe two, players short of their original expectation, there has been precious little indication of where the inevitable cutbacks are going to bite, or what plan there is to full the giant hole in finances caused by this crisis.

The WRU have been speaking for more than a month about borrowing money to help the business through this drought, and chairman Gareth Davies confirmed last week that they are looking for £20million. Is this the route being followed in Scotland? If so, those with memories long enough to remember when Scottish Rugby was crippled by a £23m debt just over a decade ago will be anxious to know how any loan will be structured and repaid. It is believed that Dodson is determined to avoid redundancies, which is admirable if he achieves it, but slightly surprising given that Bill Sweeney, his counterpart in England, has already warned that he is looking to lay off 139 of his organisation’s 545 staff as part of the plan to absorb the £107m in lost revenues due to the pandemic. We have also been told that the England Sevens squad have been told to find new jobs for up to five months with their funding due to expire on August 31. It would be good to hear from the horse’s mouth why Dodson thinks the business he runs (which employs 401 staff including pro players) is not under similar pressure to shed jobs, but he has not spoken publicly since 11th June.

Wage cuts are already in place for those in the business who earn over £50,000 and it appears inevitable that this will have to be extended beyond the initial 1st September deadline. Discussions are presumably ongoing, and we should be glad that we have not seen any humiliating public spats such as has been witnessed in other nations, but, again, the lack of information coming out of Murrayfield has fed anxiety about what is really going on behind the scenes – especially with CVC Partners private equity house taking an increasingly active interest in the sport.

Nobody expects Dodson and co to be able to provide all the answers we seek right now. We recognise that this is a moving feast, and there are commercially sensitive elements which cannot be shared, but to say nothing about the business outlook feeds anxiety and suspicion. A little bit of openness would go a long way.