RFU scraps plans to stage regional cluster leagues to get clubs playing in Covid-hit 2020/21 season
The alarming rise in Covid-19 infection rates has led the RFU to pull the plug on plans to get clubs across the country playing again in what it termed 'Cluster Fixtures'.
After the full 2020/21 season was officially abandoned for all but the top two tiers at the end of October, clubs across the RFU's leagues had been offered the chance to opt in to regionally drawn mini leagues.
They were set to run without promotion or relegation connotations and be played with an adapted contact form of the 15-a-side game, without scrums or mauls, after the latter was approved by the Government in December.
Bury St Edmunds were looking forward to going head-to-head in the 'NCA Cup' against higher-league sides Cambridge and Bishop's Stortford while Sudbury were set for derbies with Colchester and Diss with Stowmarket and Ipswich in the mini leagues, which had been pushed back to January 23.
But a meeting of the RFU Competitions Committee, which met on Monday ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's national lockdown announcement, decided to abandon the planned competitions.
However, friendly fixtures could still end up taking place through local controlling bodies, such as Eastern Counties Rugby, with the RFU paving the way for play into the summer. And the NCA, which runs the National League, which Bury St Edmunds sits within, has said their executive committee will meet on January 14 to discuss their club's situation.
On its latest Community Game Update, the RFU said: "Due to the additional restrictions announced yesterday to combat the spread of Covid-19, the RFU has regretfully decided to cancel both the adult male & female Cluster Fixtures (for teams that play in RFU Leagues).
"The focus will now switch to the following;
• Facilitating fixtures through local organising committees as and when conditions allow a return to playing rugby, which could extend into the summer months.
• Ensuring any extension does not encroach on the 2021/22 season start date.
"Any further announcements will be made following the next Government review. In the meantime, your local organising committee will be in touch with specific information for your region."
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