Revamped Championship to kick-off in March

Saracens will not play until March next year
Saracens will not play until March next year
©Steve Haag

The Rugby Football Union has confirmed that the second tier revamped Championship competition will kick-off in March.

The tournament was initially scheduled to begin in January but now the England board has pushed it to the first week of March which means Saracens' England internationals including skipper Owen Farrell, Vunipola brothers, Elliot Daly, Maro Itoje will not be playing ahead of the Six Nations tournament that kicks-off on 6th February.

Mark McCall's men were relegated to the second tier competition at the end of the 2019/20 season for a series of salary cap breaches.

The 12-team competition will be split into two conferences with Saracens joining Cornish Pirates, Ampthill, Jersey Reds, London Scottish and Hartpury University in Group A.

Conference B will consists of Ealing Trailfinders, Coventry, Nottingham, Bedford Blues, Doncaster Knights and Richmond. Each side will face each other teams in the conference on a home and an away fixture.

"Given the possibility of no crowds being allowed for some of the season, and wishing to take Championship rugby to a wider audience, it is hoped to stream as many of the matches as possible," read a statement issued by the Rugby Football Union on behalf of the Championship clubs.

"As a result of Championship clubs having little or no income for the last nine months, the majority do not have the financial ability to meet the costs of Covid testing required under the elite sport framework.

"The clubs have, therefore, been in regular dialogue with the RFU to consider options and solutions to conclude the season.

"The clubs have chosen not to return to play under adapted laws, and the March start date allows time for clubs to gain clarity from Sport England regarding the Sport Winter Survival Package before starting pre-season training.

"All Championship clubs are unanimously behind the intended competition as outlined, but require some weeks of full training to make squads 'match ready', subsequent to the long absence of competitive rugby.

"A small number of Championship clubs have returned to training operating under the elite sport framework, and may arrange pre-season friendlies ahead of the restart in early March."