How soon we can look forward to live sport again is anyone’s guess at the moment, it won’t be too long hopefully but all the major sports have acted quickly to collectively tackle the global challenge of COVID 19.
Football was one of the first to react, in England with players and coaches in London contracting the coronavirus, while Madrid suffered the same outcome. In tennis, there is a break of service on the ATP tour, while world cricket is on hold as well.
Football across the world, and particularly in Europe, is still hopeful of completing their competitions, while UK Rugby Union moved swiftly to end the 2019/20 Championship season even before the nationwide lockdown in the UK commenced.
The Rugby Football Union stopped the 2019/20 season for all league, cup and county rugby except the Gallagher Premiership. The RFU initially moved to postpone all Rugby Union until the 14th April, but soon took the strong decision to scrap the Greene King Championship and Tyrrells Premier 15s, to clear the decks and prepare for the 2020/21 season.
We’re hoping for some positive Rugby Union 2020 news before too long and the Premiership is keeping the situation in review. CEO Darren Childs has communicated his ambition for Rugby Union to be the first sport back on TV in the UK, with a plan to complete fixtures in midweek and at the weekend until completion.
Let’s hope so, and then the Rugby Union 2020 will be back up and running here at SBOTOP the minute we get a resumption.
Saracens down either way
They may be sitting in second place in the Gallagher Premiership table but Saracens are about to be relegated to the Greene King IPA Championship as a punishment for repeated salary cap infringements. That could mean Newcastle Falcons, who led the Championship table, could have their promotion to the top flight confirmed. England star Billy Vunipola is embracing the prospect with some relish, seeing it as a chance to recharge his batteries for a new assault on domestic and European rugby.
He’s committed his future to Sarries, saying he’ll stay at Allianz Park next season after being assured by England that playing in the second tier will not hamper any chance of representing his country or the Lions. Vinupola is looking forward to a lighter workload, saying: “There’s not as many fixtures or big games and people will understand when I say that currently you can go from Clermont one week to Exeter the next, which is extremely tough and everyone carries niggles.
“It’s tough going but next year is a chance to recharge and get the body to feel better.”
Aussies take pay cuts
The Rugby Union Players’ Association is agreeable to pay-cuts of up to 50 per cent for players after news emerged that Rugby Australia’s executive had taken a lead by agreeing to reductions.
Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle has agreed to take a 50 per cent pay-cut, some 400,000 Aussie Dollars, while the rest of the executive accepted salary cuts of 30 per cent for the next three months, to be reviewed again at that time.
The RUPA chief executive Justin Harrison responded with a commitment to meet to discuss pay cuts for players, saying: “We acknowledge Raelene Castle’s decision to take a 50 per cent pay cut and her executive team’s acceptance of a 30 per cent reduction.”
Players are likely to follow suit to help their clubs stay in safe financial order.
Three teams contest the Six Nations
Like the rest if the sport world the Six Nations has been suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak, but if play returns there will be a fascinating three way title clash to look forward to. England and France have both won three and lost one, while Ireland too has suffered just a single defeat, and have a game in hand on the top two.
The England side looks like the favourite to triumph if the tournament resumes, with just Italy to play, while Ireland are scheduled to take a trip to France. A resumption of play will be a useful diversion for England coach Eddie Jones, who got into hot water after criticising referee Ben O’ Keeffe, after his team’s victory over Wales, hinting at bias; and that grabbed all the wrong headlines.
France fans will be looking forward to the chance to see their scrum-half Antoine Dupont in action again. He stood out before the break as the focus of Les Bleus’ speed in moving the ball and turning defence into attack.
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