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6 Nations

RFU CEO gives COVID-19 planning & support update

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(Photo by Bob Bradford - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Bill Sweeney – RFU, CEO

My thoughts and those of all of us at the RFU continue to be with everyone impacted by the difficult and exceptional situation we are all facing, both across the country and within our own rugby union community.

Earlier today we held a virtual board meeting and I am writing to advise you of the actions that have been agreed to offer a support package directly funded from the RFU worth £7m to provide support for community clubs in England.  

IMPACT

To support clubs we are today announcing that the RFU will be providing a £7m relief package for community clubs. The package includes monies ring fenced and diverted for the community game as well as additional funding. These measures include:

•       An early release of £800,000 cash due to clubs through the ticketing fund.  

•       Early release of final funding payments (£600,000) to Constituent Bodies and suspension of the activity plans against which this was allocated, enabling them to utilise this to provide “immediate support grants” to clubs most in need. In addition £400,000 will be made available to Constituent Bodies who elect to match fund from their own reserves.

•       A suspension of the Quarterly loan repayments for clubs with outstanding loans due in March (£335,000).  

•       The creation of a £5m support loans programme, offering loans of between circa £2k and circa £10k to clubs, with deferred re-payments for six months and repayable over three years. 

We will be providing more details on this financial package in the coming week. We will also be issuing regular club recovery updates with practical advice on how government grants can be accessed as well as other business management advice. 

We welcome government interventions which will provide business rate holidays and grants for clubs.

The RFU will continue to provide a free helpline to assist clubs with legal and tax related matters: https://www.englandrugby.com/participation/running-your-club/legal-and-administration

Significant progress has been made on the process for considering the implications of ending the season early. We will ensure a fair and balanced outcome for the game and are now committed to update on this by the middle of April.

No one can predict every possible outcome of the COVID-19 outbreak particularly with regard to the duration of this crisis and we are managing in the unknown. We have modelled three potential scenarios and are working on an assumption based on a medium term impact with a view to a return to rugby in the autumn. We will continue to monitor against this assumption and review and revise planning where necessary.

The RFU had budgeted for a loss making year within a four year cycle due to the costs of the 2019 RWC campaign and hosting only two home Six Nations games. The loss will now be considerably more as we face challenges similar to businesses across the country. 

The RFU’s biggest asset is also a major cost and the closure of Twickenham Stadium has a significant impact on the revenues we can generate to re-invest back into the game. In that sense we are like every other club in the Union, when we do not stage matches and events we do not generate revenue.

Based on our planning assumption we estimate RFU revenue losses over the next 18 months to be approximately £45-£50 million and have a firm plan in place to mitigate this. The RFU Executive Team will be taking a cut in remuneration in excess of 25%. In addition, combined Board fees will be reduced by 75%.

WELFARE  

We are continuing our support to ensure colleagues and communities are given help to follow government advice and are providing recommendations on how to stay fit and healthy and a range of new content will be made available to players and fans across our social media channels. 

We are discussing with government and the NHS the role the RFU and Twickenham Stadium can play in providing volunteers as well as support for the NHS including accommodation, parking and meal provisioning.

I am confident that rugby will play a big role in energising communities across England after this difficult period. In the meantime, we are working hard with the wider rugby community to take the necessary measures to safeguard a financially resilient Union so that we can.

6 Nations

Wales & France name side for 6 Nations restart

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Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac has named his first squad in seven months as Wales kick off their Autumn campaign in Paris against France on Saturday (KO 21.10 local, ITV4 & S4C).

Captain Alun Wyn Jones will level the world record of test appearances when he makes his 148th international appearance (including 9 British & Irish Lions test caps). Jones will pack down alongside Cory Hill who makes his first start for his country since February 2019.
Rhys Carre, Ryan Elias and Samson Lee comprise the front-row with Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau featuring in the back-row.

Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar are named at half-back with Nick Tompkins partnering the returning Jonathan Davies in midfield. Josh Adams, George North and Leigh Halfpenny make up the back-three.
Wales head coach Wayne Pivac said:


“The players are excited, it has been a long time, we can’t wait for Saturday.
“We have six matches this autumn and the game against France helps us get back into our stride international rugby-wise. We have picked an experienced side and are up against a good French team so we want to start this autumn well and get on the front foot for the Guinness Six Nations fixture against Scotland.


“We have talked already about how fortunate we are to be going about our work on a daily basis. A lot of people can’t do that and certainly within our organisation there are a lot of people not back at work.

From our point of view this Saturday is an opportunity to prepare for this tournament and for Scotland, but two, to put some smiles on faces and put on a good performance and make the nation proud.
On Alun Wyn Jones equalling the world record for test caps, Pivac said:

“It is a fabulous achievement. He epitomises what a great rugby player is all about. He is a true professional on and off the field and a gentleman of the game. On the field he leads by example and you can’t ask more of your captain and we are very privileged here in Wales to have him.

”Uncapped duo Sam Parry and Louis Rees-Zammit are both named on the bench for the test at Stade de France. Nicky Smith, Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies and James Davies complete the forward replacements with Gareth Davies and Rhys Patchell joining Rees-Zammit as the back-line cover.

France have also named their team.

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6 Nations

Scarlets provide updates on Williams & Owens

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(Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)

Liam Williams has recovered from a foot injury that has prevented him playing for the Scarlets so far this season. He has been released from the Wales squad to train with the Scarlets ahead of Friday’s Guinness PRO14 clash with Benetton.

Ken Owens has undergone surgery on the shoulder injury he sustained against Glasgow and it is expected he will be unavailable for three to four months.

Josh Macleod has started his rehabilitation for a hamstring injury sustained against Glasgow. He will be targeting a return to play in December.

Scarlets also confirmed that Sam Lousi has been banned for a period of four weeks as a result of his red card in the Guinness PRO14 clash with Glasgow Warriors.

Lousi was shown a red card by referee Frank Murphy (IRFU) under Law 9.13 – a Player must not tackle an opponent early, late, or dangerously. Dangerous tackling includes, but is not limited to, tackling, or attempting to tackle an opponent above the line of the shoulder even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders.

The disciplinary hearing was handled by Roddy Dunlop (Scotland) and it was accepted that the player’s actions warranted a red card for foul play. The incident was deemed a mid-range offence, which carries a six-week suspension.

Due to the player’s previous disciplinary record (red card for punching incident, February 2020) the judicial officer could not offer full mitigation therefore, resulting in a four-week suspension.

Lousi is free to resume playing from midnight on November 9, 2020

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6 Nations

Scotland name squad for Autumn Internationals

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(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Scotland Head Coach Gregor Townsend has named a 40-man squad for the forthcoming autumn international matches, which include the conclusion of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations and newly launched Autumn Nations Cup.

Scotland Head Coach Gregor Townsend has named a 40-man squad for the forthcoming autumn international matches, which include the conclusion of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations and newly launched Autumn Nations Cup.

The squad features three uncapped players in Glasgow Warriors prop Oli Kebble, Edinburgh winger Duhan van der Merwe and Harlequins scrum-half, Scott Steele. In the 23 forwards there are five players who did not feature in the 2020 Guinness Six Nations earlier in the year, with Glasgow Warriors trio Richie Gray (lock), Rob Harley (back-row/lock) and Kebble selected alongside London Irish flanker Blair Cowan, who won his last Scotland cap in 2016 and earns his first call up under Townsend. Scarlets’ Blade Thompson (back-row) also re-joins the squad having last featured at Rugby World Cup 2019.

In the 17 backs selected there are returns for Harlequins centre James Lang, who last featured in the national side during the summer of 2018, as well as Glasgow Warriors centre Nick Grigg and Edinburgh winger Damien Hoyland, alongside squad debutants van der Merwe and scrum-half Steele.

Racing 92 fly-half Finn Russell also joins the squad, with an opportunity to earn his 50th Scotland cap during the campaign.Gregor Townsend said:

“We are very much looking forward to coming back together as a coaching and playing group after such an unprecedented and challenging period in our sport and across society in general. “There was a strong feeling that we were growing as a team during the Six Nations earlier this year, making progress from game-to-game as well as building closer bonds within the squad.

Our aim is to keep this momentum going as we take on Georgia and Wales before competing in the Autumn Nations Cup in November. “The squad we have selected is formed by the majority of the players we worked with in the Six Nations alongside players who have grabbed their opportunity in the past few weeks and have been in form for their respective teams. “Given the lack of games since March, there will be opportunities for players out-with the squad to break into our group over the next few weeks, but for now the focus is on this group that will be in camp from tomorrow.

It will be great to see some familiar faces, welcome a few back into our squad and also introduce some new players to Test match rugby.”

Scotland begin their autumn test matches at BT Murrayfield against Georgia on Friday 23 October before facing Wales in Llanelli on 31 October in the rescheduled 2020 Guinness Six Nations fixture.

The newly formed Autumn Nations Cup begins in November with Scotland in Pool B alongside France and Fiji who they will play at BT Murrayfield as well as an away test match against Italy.

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