RPA backs postponement of Premiership Rugby season

The Rugby Players Association has backed the postponement of the season due to the coronavirus outbreak and said the decision is in “the best short-term interests of the sport”.

Rugby followed football’s lead by calling off all scheduled matches as the coronavirus continues to spread.

An announcement on Monday confirmed Premiership Rugby fixtures have been shelved for five weeks after the Government changed the stance on mass gatherings.

Four rounds of matches are currently set to be affected as the plan is to return to action on April 24 – with the RPA behind the cancellations.

“The RPA fully supports PRL’s (Premiership Rugby Limited) decision to postpone Gallagher Premiership fixtures, to ensure the wellbeing and safety of all our members, club employees and rugby fans across the country,” chief executive Damian Hopley said in a statement.

“The RPA has been in constant contact with Premiership Rugby and the RFU who are working closely with DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), Public Health England and World Health Organisation on this matter.

“In light of the Government’s Cobra meeting and announcement this evening, today’s difficult decision has been made in the best short-term interests of the sport.

“The uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 presents extraordinary challenges and risks, so it is therefore vital that we follow the Government protocols at this time to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved in the game.

“In this unprecedented situation we will continue to work closely with Premiership Rugby and the RFU to provide updates to our membership when more information becomes available.”

The Rugby Football Union confirmed it was suspending “all rugby activity in England, at both professional and community level”.

Tarquin McDonald, chief executive of Premiership side Bath, said fighting Covid-19 was the utmost concern at present.

“As a club we are committed to the safety of our supporters, our players and our staff. In light of this unprecedented situation a number of our fixtures will now be postponed in line with the British Government and Premiership Rugby,” he said.

“We are continuing to put measures in place to deal with ongoing developments and are in frequent dialogue with Premiership Rugby and our fellow clubs. We will continue to monitor the situation with the Government, Public Health England and the NHS and respond accordingly.

“Our priority continues to be to protect public health and support in delaying the spread of Covid-19. We want to ensure our city, supporters, players and staff stay safe.”