The club rugby season was due to kick off today.
But with barely 48 hours’ notice, amid a rapidly worsening situation with the coronavirus pandemic, the blazers at Twickenham issued orders on Thursday to postpone competitive rugby until January, at the earliest.
Thousands of club players across the country, and dozens of clubs in and around Croydon, have been left to kick the heels of their rugby boots after eagerly anticipating a return to matches for the first time since the first lockdown was declared in March.
Games at Premiership and Championship level, and next month’s internationals, can still go ahead, in front of empty stands. Many clubs have been running training sessions for their mini and junior sections on Sunday mornings for the past month. Local clubs have also gone to great lengths to ready themselves for a covid-safe new season, developing track and trace QR codes and making new areas available for players’ changing.
But for grassroots club players such as those from Warlingham and newly promoted Old Walcountians, who were due to play today in London and South East Division 3, it’s just another set-back in an increasingly frustrating year.
The RFU statement issued on Thursday said, “The RFU Governance Committee have made the difficult decision that, with the exception of Premiership, Championship and Premier 15s rugby, no organised RFU or non-RFU Leagues including merit tables, adult or age grade competitions will be played before January 2021 at the earliest.
“With the increased uncertainly caused by government’s additional restrictions to curb the increase in covid-19 cases across the country, the decision has been made so that we can provide clubs with some certainty over the next few months.
“The rugby community can continue to organise non-contact fixtures with other clubs… Limited and restricted contact rugby training can also be continued.”
The RFU said that it is in dialogue with the government so that if the coronavirus situation changes for the better before Christmas, some competitive friendly matches may be possible. It is also considering removing all promotion and relegation from the 2020-2021 season, another blow to competitive rugby after the unfinished previous season.
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