Roadmap backed but rugby cluster leagues are shelved

Roadmap backed but rugby cluster leagues are shelved

Gareth Davies

Cornwall Rugby Football Union (CRFU) chairman Dave Saunter has welcomed the Government’s roadmap to lifting covid restrictions, while admitting that teams won’t be playing competitively from March 29.

Although there has been no official announcement from the Rugby Football Union (RFU) in terms of just what clubs and their players can do when the current rules receive their first relaxation, Saunter says that gameplay with adapted rules is likely to be implemented initially.

It is hoped that as restrictions are eased further, normality will resume although Saunter reluctantly but honestly admitted that any proposed Cornwall only cluster league will not take place.

The Duchy chief hopes that some form of cup competition at either the end of this campaign or the start of next could be played, with a suggestion that delaying the commencement of 2021-22 could help implement this too.

“March 29 is a date that has been given, but realistically that will not be the date that we go back and play competitive rugby,” Saunter told the Voice. “It will be just to start the clock going again and these are the thoughts of me as a chairman opposed to everyone else.

“Logic dictates that players won’t be hammering each other on March 29 and there will be probably be a four-week period when we play ready for rugby again on an adapted game.

“The cluster leagues won’t be able to happen now because they were based on 10 weeks of rugby. At best, we may get four to six weeks of rugby. That may be the format where there aren’t scrums and mauls although everything is up in the air.

“My hope is that we can play some rugby and we may do an end of season cup. We may do a pre-season cup and try to persuade the RFU to start the league season for 21-22 a little bit later. We could then have September as a month to complete a full pre-season cup that involves every club in Cornwall.

“It would be a competition based on a waterfall effect when each team gets knocked out of one competition, they enter another.

“We are just waiting for the RFU to come back with something. I have spoken to Steve Grainger and the RFU are just waiting to see what is allowed.

“I am hopeful that we can get some sort of games in whether that be friendlies or something else. Some clubs have come back to us and say they want to leave it until next season and I have no qualms with any club wanting to do that.”

Although the cluster leagues not going ahead as anticipated will disappoint many involved in the game across Cornwall, Saunter says the Government announcement last week should see a normal season take place next term.

“When Boris (Johnson, Prime Minister) made his announcement, everyone just thought, ‘wow, that’s awesome’ as we will be able to return to proper rugby for the start of next season in September,” he added.

“If June is when Boris sees us going back to normal life, then normality will resume. The RFU will dictate just how that happens and we look forward to everything starting. The only worry is funding for clubs that have to play out of Cornwall, but the way forward is rugby in September.

“We will be doing all we can to get our clubs back ready for that here in Cornwall.”