RFU propose three models for a new season to help grassroots rugby clubs return to playing

More derby matches will be the order of the day when competitive grassroots rugby returns. Picture:

More derby matches will be the order of the day when competitive grassroots rugby returns. Picture: KARYN HADDON - Credit: Archant

Plans for grassroots rugby clubs to return to competitive action have been released by the RFU – although all are dependent on reaching the final stage of the return to rugby roadmap.

The governing body has produced three different options for the 2020-2021 season, all based on three potential start windows and all allow for any further interruption as a result of COVID-19.

They also provide clubs, schools, colleges, universities and players with greater flexibility to enable games to be played.

The plans prioritise matches against neighbouring sides early in the season, with the idea to reduce travel, support club revenue and maintain player participation.

To best manage the uncertainties around a start date, leagues will be split into conferences from the start of the season. Therefore if a league has 12 teams, as the majority in the London & South East leagues do, then they will be split into two groups of six, organised geographically to keep travel to a minimum in the early part of the season and present the opportunity for more revenue- generating derby fixtures.

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If rugby starts in window one then teams play home and away in their group, 10 matches in a 12-team league, and only upon completion of these fixtures would they play home and away against teams in the other group, a total of 22 games.

The league winner will be the team with the best playing record from all league fixtures.

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The difference if rugby starts in window two would be in the second round of fixtures.

Clubs would still play home and away against their local rivals but would play either home or away against the other group, meaning 16 fixtures in total.

The league winner will be the team with the best playing record from fixtures played in both groups.

A window three start would see only the first round of fixtures played, 10 in total, with a play-off between the two group winners determining the overall champions.

For clubs like Old Albanian in the National Leagues there are subtle differences.

Window one would see a normal, regular season with home and away fixtures against all others but if it is a window two start then only one round of fixtures, home or away, would be used.

At that point the league will be separated into two groups of eight and play either home or away against these teams.

In window three only home or away fixtures will be delivered, in other words just 15 games, with the league winner decided by the results of these fixtures.

The RFU have said the season can be extended up to the end of May if it helps support delivery of a meaningful competition and to further support clubs, league rugby will be prioritised over cup and county championships.

Details on exact start date windows and how the models will work for different league sizes are expected in the new few days.

The calendar for junior rugby remains as scheduled but any resumption is again dictated by reaching stage F in the roadmap, with player welfare and safety a priority.

Steve Grainger, the RFU’s rugby development director, said: “The competition models demonstrate our commitment to having competitive rugby played in clubs and education settings as soon as it is safely possible.

“In addition to the competition framework, we are working on plans with Sport England and the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport about how we accelerate some form of a return to community rugby.”

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