1. “C” – 5
    Obviously you start with 3 on the pitch, plus a minimum of one prop and one hooker. Teams are obliged to inform the Match Official where their FR replacements can play, so, if you are told there are at least 2 FR replacements, you should have at least one extra hooker and one extra prop. (See Law 3.8)
  2. “C” – Stop the game, restart with a scrum. I would argue that the scrum should be where the ball was kicked, the kicking team to put in. (You could argue that it should be the non-kicking team below where the ball struck the branch)
    This is a tricky one but the starting point is Law 6.9(f): The ball becomes dead if it hits anything over the playing area. Therefore, you cannot play on and any action after the branch has been hit, unless foul play, is immaterial. As the ball is dead you have to restart the game with a scrum (A lineout option does not exist as the ball has never left the field of play).

 Law 19.1 lists the various scenarios for scrums and among these is “The referee awards a scrum for any other reason not covered in law” which is the closest definition to this scenario. The scrum is taken at the closest point to the place of stoppage. You could argue that this was below where the branch was struck, and that the non kicking team should have the put in for not causing the ball to be deadI feel it would be more credible to restart at the place of the kick (similar to a kick through the in goal) with the kicking team retaining possession as they have attempted to play the ball positively, but have been impeded by circumstances beyond their control and should not thus be penalised for this. Answers on a Postcard!

  1. “C” Penalise for deliberate knock on
    The tackler was entitled to play the ball as he had gotten back to his feet and no ruck had formed therefore he is not offside. However, Law 11.4 makes it clear that an attempt to catch the ball must be made to avoid the action being seen as a deliberate knock on
  2. “No”
    Law 17.1 is clear that the ball must have reached the plane of the 22m line before being caught for a mark. In this scenario, the catcher is deemed to have taken the ball back into the 22
  3. “C” – Penalise for offside
    Law 19.29 is clear: Once play in the scrum begins, the scrum-half of the team in possession has at least one foot level with or behind the ball.

 

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 funds from their own reserves.

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

• The creation of a £5m support loans programme, offering loans of between circa £2,000 and circa £10,000 to clubs, with deferred 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, which you can access here.

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 prioritise support available to ensure survival in the best interests of the game.

Bill Sweeney

EPCR statement – 2020 Marseille finals and semi-final matches 

Following a conference call yesterday (Monday 23 March), the EPCR Board can reconfirm the suspension of this season’s Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup tournaments and has furthermore decided to postpone the semi-final matches, as well as the 2020 Marseille finals, which were due to be played on the weekends of 1/2/3 May and 22/23 May respectively. 

In making the decision, the Board is abiding by the official directives and recommendations of the relevant authorities in its territories to restrict the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In light of the earlier postponement of its quarter-final matches and with fixtures in Europe’s professional league competitions currently suspended due to the public health crisis, EPCR believes it necessary to provide as much clarity as possible to all stakeholders regarding the knockout stages of its tournaments. 

To that end, EPCR is working with the leagues and unions to restructure a conclusion to its season as part of a wider rescheduling of the remainder of the season in Europe, with all contingencies underpinned by the requirement to protect the health and welfare of players, club staff, match officials, supporters and the wider rugby community. 

EPCR remains committed to completing the 2019/20 Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup season, and it is planned to reschedule the quarter-final and semi-final matches, as well as the Marseille finals, in line with fixtures in the professional league competitions, subject to advice from government and local authorities. 

Tickets already purchased for the Marseille finals will be valid for the new dates when announced, and from that point, fans who are unable to attend on the new dates will be entitled to a refund. 

EPCR would like to thank Olympique de Marseille, the staff at the Orange Vélodrome and all local and regional partners for their continuing collaboration, and an update regarding the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup will be communicated as soon as practicable. 

My thoughts and those of all of us at the RFU are with everyone impacted by COVID-19 as well as recent flooding events, both across the country at large but also within our own rugby union community.

In order to provide clarity and to assist with immediate and longer term planning, the RFU is today announcing the end of the 2019/20 rugby season for all league, cup and county rugby in England. The only exception to this is the Gallagher Premiership, who we are in active discussions with to review possible best next steps.

When current government advice on social distancing measures changes, we will naturally encourage rugby training and friendlies to recommence.

I would like to personally thank everyone for their swift actions in suspending rugby activity, this is not an easy time and I know many of you will have concerns that go beyond the game.

We are working through the implications of ending the season early and have instigated a thorough process to ensure fair and balanced outcomes for the game. We will communicate these outcomes by the middle of April. While we would like to provide all the answers now, we need some time to get it right for the best interests of the game. Rest assured we are working on this as a priority and we will continue to send weekly updates to clubs.

The three areas of focus for the RFU right now are Welfare, Implications and Reboot.

Welfare

We are ensuring colleagues and communities are given support to follow government advice and are providing recommendations on how to stay fit and healthy using individual training programmes. We are also talking to government about how we can deploy and mobilise our own resources across England to support the vulnerable.

Implications

Every union is different, with unique structures and challenges and the RFU needs to manage its own particular complexities. Our business model is similar to most rugby clubs - we earn revenue from events on and off the field and we invest that back into the game. We benefit from strong Twickenham Stadium revenues but we are also exposed if there is widespread cancellation of games and events.

In this extraordinary situation we are working through a range of potential financial scenarios dependent mainly on the length of this crisis. This was already budgeted to be a loss making year within a 4 year cycle due to the costs of the 2019 RWC campaign and only hosting two home Six Nations games. The loss will now be considerably more as we face challenges similar to businesses across the entire country. There may well also be much longer term financial implications which we are assessing now. It is therefore taking us some time to develop a considered position on how we can support clubs and the rugby community, which we will do.

We have already undertaken financial measures to safeguard the business enabling us to review all options and programmes to provide support for clubs in these difficult times.

We welcome the measures announced by Government which could provide crucial support to professional and community clubs and the RFU. We are in regular contact with Sport England and The Sport and Recreation Alliance to understand how business rate relief and hardship funds can be accessed by clubs and will be providing assistance to make sure every club who is eligible will be supported.

The implications for all areas of rugby will be thoroughly worked through and solutions discussed and developed with the clubs.

Reboot

Our welfare advice before the start of next season will switch to offering guidance on how players at all levels can reboot and get match ready.

We will work closely with constituent bodies to support clubs, competition organisers and the wider rugby community in preparing to re-start rugby in what is likely to be a challenging environment.

In recent days we have all been inspired by the many stories across the rugby family working together to support those who are the most vulnerable in their community – this encapsulates the unique spirit of rugby. I am confident that this spirit and resilience during these tough times will ensure we will come through this together and emerge stronger.

Take care and stay safe,

Bill Sweeney