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Gallagher Premiership aiming for August 15 resumption

Players are able to return to training.

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The Gallagher Premiership is slated to return in August (Mike Egerton/PA)

The Gallagher Premiership is slated to return in August (Mike Egerton/PA)

The Gallagher Premiership is slated to return in August (Mike Egerton/PA)

Premiership Rugby has announced its plan to resume the Gallagher Premiership season on August 15.

Top-flight fixtures were initially shelved for five weeks in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, with play indefinitely suspended on April 8.

But Premiership Rugby has repeatedly outlined its intention to finish the season and, with sports across the country returning, the target date of August 15 was agreed at a board meeting on Thursday evening.

The decision was taken in the wake of Premiership and Championship clubs this week being given provisional authorisation to begin non-contact training, with the structure of the 2019-20 season to follow in due course.

Premiership Rugby chief executive Darren Childs said: “Nothing will happen until it is safe to do so but we will do everything we can to resume the 2019-20 Gallagher Premiership Rugby campaign on Saturday 15 August.

“We won’t take risks with people’s health, and rugby has unique challenges due to levels of proximity and impact, but with a number of clubs moving to Stage 1, it is important for us to give players, coaches and clubs clarity on when they can look to return.

“Bearing that in mind, we look forward to the restart of the season.”

There were 13 rounds of Gallagher Premiership fixtures played before the suspension and Exeter are top of the standings, five points ahead of nearest rivals Sale.

Exeter, Northampton Saints and Saracens also have European Cup commitments, with the three Premiership sides through to the quarter-finals and the finale tentatively scheduled for October 17.

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Exeter Chiefs are at the top of the Gallagher Premiership (Mike Egerton/PA)

Exeter Chiefs are at the top of the Gallagher Premiership (Mike Egerton/PA)

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Exeter Chiefs are at the top of the Gallagher Premiership (Mike Egerton/PA)

The summer international programme had to be scrapped due to the coronavirus situation, with four matches of the 2020 Six Nations left to be play after it was cut short by the pandemic.

RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney remains optimistic it will still be possible for England to play planned Tests against New Zealand, Tonga, Australia and Argentina in November, but said a number of contingency plans are being considered if travel restrictions resulting from the pandemic make that impossible.

“You would need that spirit of harmony,” he said when asked how such a clash between the club and international calendar might be resolved. “You need that recognition that 2020 is an exceptional year and we have to sit around a table and find compromises that work for both sides.

“We want to avoid a pure conflict situation with that and recognise the international game has got requirements and the club game also, but let’s find a way through it.”

PA