THERE will be no competitive leagues for the 2020/21 season after the Rugby Football Union could not see how a campaign involving promotion and relegation would work.

The decision was made before news of a second lockdown hit as the RFU wanted to give its community clubs (Level 3 and below for Men, Level 2 and below for Women) some certainty for the reminder of the season.

Speaking before Saturday's Government announcement, RFU Rugby Development Director Steve Grainger said: “We are very keen to see competitive rugby being played again and have been pushing extremely hard to accelerate a return to contact rugby. 

"However, we also need to be realistic about the prevalence of COVID-19 cases in society and, given the introduction of further regional restrictions, we are working with Government to create alternative solutions.

“Progress has been made following productive conversations with DCMS and the Office of the Deputy Chief Medical Officer who have shown a willingness to work with the RFU to explore other available options.”

“While many people have looked forward to contact rugby returning, we are receiving more and more feedback from clubs and players that adaptations would be acceptable.

"There is an increasing appetite to play an adapted format of rugby rather than having no fixtures at all.

“We will do everything we can to enable the rugby community to return to contact play as soon as we can, but our priority is to keep players, coaches, referees and volunteers safe. We will provide an update to our community clubs as soon as we can.

"We would like to once again thank everyone for their incredible efforts in implementing the necessary changes and for their continued support in keeping formats of rugby going during this challenging season." 

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston added: "I know that this decision from the RFU will be disappointing to players and fans across the country however protecting people's health is absolutely paramount.

"The Government is continuing to work closely with the RFU on ways in which we can bring the competitive, community game back in some form ahead of a return to full contact as soon as the public health situation allows."

Local clusters is a model currently being looked at to fill the competitive rugby hole.

With the country set to enter another lockdown on Thursday, the RFU published this statement to comment on how it may effect the sport going forward.

It read: "Over the next few days we will be seeking clarification on what these restrictions mean for team sports and we will provide a full update in next Tuesday’s CGU.

"In the meantime, local restrictions apply and we remain at Stage D in the return to rugby roadmap.

"We will continue to work with Government to enable a return to play in some form as soon as it is safe to do so.

"We are also looking at models for a replacement competitive programme for Men and Women based on local clusters, with no obligation on clubs to participate and no consequences for deciding not to do so. Any local cluster competition would not be used to determine League positions for the 2021/22 season.

"This would be an optional competition structure that may include a knock-out competition at the end of the 2020/21 season. The exact format and regulations governing any such competitions would be approved by the Governance Standing Committee."