Fixtures have been announced for the resumption of the English top flight, including midweek matches. Here's the latest information on the Premiership's imminent return
Gallagher Premiership targets August return
The Gallagher Premiership will restart with Harlequins hosting Sale Sharks at the Twickenham Stoop on Friday 14 August.
The next day there will be four matches – Exeter v Leicester, Bath v London Irish, Worcester v Gloucester and Bristol v Saracens. And on Sunday 16 August Wasps will visit Northampton.
The following six rounds of the tournament have also been confirmed. Precise details for the penultimate round, to be played on the weekend of 18-20 September, are to be clarified. Round 22 completes the regular programme on Sunday 4 October before the semi-finals the following weekend. The Premiership final takes place on Saturday 24 October.
The English top flight was suspended in March with nine rounds still to play, as well as the semi-finals and final, due to the pandemic. League organisers have had to schedule midweek matches in order to complete the season in that time frame.
BT Sport will show every game played behind close doors live on TV. Once fans are allowed to return to stadia, the broadcaster will revert to selecting matches for live transmission.
Related: Gallagher Premiership fixtures
Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond said: “It’s fantastic that we have the opportunity to return to play after such a long lay-off. I think everyone across the league is chomping at the bit to get going again. It’s been a turbulent period for everyone, but as a club we feel we have come out of the other end of this period stronger than ever.
“We have a top bunch of players here and all the lads have put their hands up and worked hard for the club during our return-to-play preparations. We are ready and raring to go so it will be a great occasion at the Stoop on Friday 14 August.”
Players will have had around eight weeks to prepare for the restart of the season, having begun Stage One of training in June and Stage Two last month. There has been some disruption due to Covid, with players testing positive for the virus having to self-isolate.
However, the latest round of testing produced only two positive tests – one player and one staff member – out of 917 tests conducted.
The results of Premiership Rugby’s coronavirus testing so far are:
Week One (6 July) – 804 players and club staff tested. Ten positive tests – six players and four non-playing staff.
Week Two (13 July) – 856 players and club staff tested. Nine positive tests – seven players and two non-playing staff.
Week Three (20 July) – 896 players and club staff tested. Two positive tests – both players.
Week Four (27 July) – 846 players and club staff tested. Five positive tests – four players and one non-playing staff member.
Week Five (3 August) – 917 players and club staff tested. Two positive tests – one player and one non-playing staff member.
Stage One allowed for individual conditioning (or groups of individuals conditioning) in a performance environment with strict social distancing. Stages Two and Three mean players can train in closer proximity and contact training can be introduced.
Premiership Rugby chief executive Darren Childs said: “We are delighted to be on track to bring rugby back to fans and see our players out in competition. We are now cautiously optimistic for a safe return to the season.”
Exeter Chiefs are top of the Premiership table with nine wins after 13 rounds. Sale, Bristol and Northampton are the other teams currently in the play-off spots.
The Guinness Pro14 is also aiming to return in August but is focusing on local derbies before the semi-finals and final in a truncated season. Meanwhile, EPCR has scheduled the knockout stages of the European Champions and Challenge Cups for September and October.
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