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Open stadium or closed, rugby union chiefs determined to be ‘first ones back’

PLAYING games behind closed doors, staging multiple matches at single venues and scheduling midweek fixtures are options under discussion to finish this season’s English rugby union’s Premiership season completed, league chiefs confirmed yesterday.

The English sport’s flagship domestic competition is on hold until at least April 24 due to the coronavirus pandemic. It has nine rounds of regular season action remaining, play-off semi-finals and a Twickenham final — and the start of next term is just six months away.

With the season suspended, several Premiership clubs recently announced player pay cuts.

Premiership Rugby chief executive Darren Childs accepts that summer rugby is “inevitable” if the competition is to have any chance of a successful conclusion.

England are due to play Tests in Japan on July 4 and 11, which would effect player availability for summer Premiership games, although all tours must be rated doubtful at this stage.

Childs, who revealed that he and Premiership Rugby’s chief financial officer have taken wage cuts in a bid to show solidarity with players, says that “all options are on the table.”

“Our number-one priority is to find a way to play, and that is what we are all working on behind the scenes.”

“We want to get this season finished, and if that means playing over the summer, then we will do that as long as it is safe to do so. We won’t take any risks about anyone’s health and welfare.

“Rugby does make an impact on medical staff and hospitals because of the nature of it, and that is an absolute priority for us to make sure we are not taking any of those resources away.

“Our aim is really clear: we are all working to try and hopefully be the first sport back on television, whether that is in a closed stadium or an open stadium.

“We are looking at all kinds of ideas: whether we do compressed weekends; whether we will play three or four rounds on one weekend from a single venue; we are looking at midweek games.

“It is inevitable that, if we can restart, we are going to be playing through the summer.”

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