he Trailfinders Challenge Cup was due to be a quiet preseason tune up for three Championship clubs but Saturday’s opener between Ealing and Saracens will take centre stage following the suspension of European competition and the Premiership’s circuit breaker.
The Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup were called off indefinitely yesterday after the French government decreed that their clubs’ involvement would constitute too much of a risk to public health.
The Gallagher Premiership then resisted calls to bring forward fixtures while they are allowed to, opting instead for a two-week circuit breaker, which will end on January 29.
The decision has not pleased broadcasters BT Sport or a number of Premiership clubs, including London Irish. After they missed two games due to a Covid-19 outbreak, their Director of Rugby Declan Kidney said they would not be in a favour of another break.
“The welfare of everyone involved in Premiership Rugby is crucial to us and this break in the season gives us the chance to hand some much-needed rest to our hard-working players, management, staff and match officials,” said Darren Childs, the Premiership CEO in a press release.
That leaves Saracens’ return to action for the first time since March as the only men’s game played in England this weekend. It is due to be live-streamed.
Eddie Jones will not mind that his players are getting a period of rest before going into camp for the Six Nations in late January.
He may be without Kyle Sinckler, however, as the prop faces a disciplinary hearing tonight for “failing to respect the authority” of referee Karl Dickson (his former team-matte at Harlequins) during Bristol’s win over Exeter at the weekend.
Discussions about whether the men’s Six Nations can go ahead as scheduled next month will continue this week.
Meanwhile, Harlequins have confirmed that lock Glen Young and Scotland back James Lang will leave the club at the end of the season to join Edinburgh.