The Rugby Football Union’s hopes of accommodating upwards of 40,000 England fans at the November internationals at Twickenham have been massively boosted by an announcement from Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister.  

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Having recently unveiled a plan to slash 139 jobs across rugby in England amid fears of a potential £107million loss in revenue due to the dire impact of the coronavirus on the sport, the RFU finally have a reason to smile after a pandemic update by Johnson cleared the way for fans to return to outdoor stadium matches. 

“From August 1, we will restart indoor performance to a live audience, subject to the success of pilots, and we will also pilot larger gatherings in venues like sports stadia, with a view to a wider reopening in the autumn,” said Johnson. 

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“From October, we intend to bring back audiences in stadia. Again, these changes must be done in a Covid-secure way, subject to the successful outcome of pilots.”

With plans afoot for England to feature in an eight-team tournament that will include the Six Nations countries, the RFU believes it can safely cater for 40,000 people at Twickenham if social distancing measures are kept at one-metre. 

Johnson’s announcement will also buoy Premiership Rugby officials who have been hoping that fans will also be able to attend the rescheduled 2019/20 Gallagher Premiership final on October 24. Twickenham has yet to be confirmed as the venue for that showpiece final, but the October 1 reopening date will come too late for most Premiership clubs to accommodate fans at their home grounds when the league restarts next month.

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Already, Coventry-based Wasps are pressing ahead with ticket refunds following Johnson’s October 1 date announcement. 

A club statement read: “Following the announcement by the government, it is clear that all of the remaining games in the 2019/20 season are likely to be played behind closed doors. Therefore, the club believes now is the right time to start the credit and refund process.”

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