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RFU cancels the 2020/21 rugby season for all levels below Premiership and Championship

The RFU has cancelled league rugby below the top two tiers of the game for the 2020/21 season.

Teams at National League 1 level and below had previously seen their season delayed until January.

Canterbury in action against Hull Ionians in March before the first national lockdown. Picture: Phillipa Hilton
Canterbury in action against Hull Ionians in March before the first national lockdown. Picture: Phillipa Hilton

But that timescale has now been extended to the end of the season by the RFU, a decision made even before Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a second national lockdown on Saturday evening.

It means the likes of Canterbury and Tonbridge Juddians will not play league rugby this season.

The RFU said: "We believe that, even if a return to full contact rugby becomes possible, playing a meaningful competitive league season resulting in promotion and relegation is no longer feasible.

"Given the Government’s additional restrictions to curb the increase in COVID-19 cases in locations across the country, and growing concerns around travelling significant distances outside immediate localities to fulfil fixtures due to increased risk of transmission, the decision has been made now so we can provide clubs with some certainty for the remainder of the season."

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said: "I know the decision from the RFU will be disappointing to players and fans across the country, however protecting people's health is absolutely paramount.

"The Government is continuing to work closely with the RFU on ways in which we can bring the competitive, community game back in some form ahead of a return to full contact as soon as the public health situation allows."

Despite the cancellation of the league programme for the current season, clubs are still keen to play rugby in the months ahead.

Steve Grainger, RFU Rugby Development Director, said: "There is an increasing appetite to play an adapted format of rugby rather than having no fixtures at all.

“While many people have looked forward to contact rugby returning, we are receiving more and more feedback from clubs and players that adaptations would be acceptable.

“We will do everything we can to enable the rugby community to return to contact play as soon as we can, but our priority is to keep players, coaches, referees and volunteers safe. We will provide an update to our community clubs as soon as we can."

The RFU have said they still hope to start the Championship (level 2) in January.

Read more: All the latest sports news in Kent

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