England are hoping to accommodate a crowd of 20,000 at Twickenham for next month’s rearranged match versus the Barbarians. The fixture was due to be held during the summer but was postponed and now becomes the October 25 warm-up six days before England face Italy in Rome to complete their delayed Guinness 2020 Six Nations campaign. 

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A crowd of 3,500 is due at this weekend’s Gallagher Premiership match between Harlequins and Bath, the first time spectators will be allowed at a rugby game in England since the pandemic outbreak.

Officials are hoping that this pilot event at The Stoop will pass off without a hitch, fuelling hopes that a quarter of the capacity at 82,000 capacity Twickenham stadium can then be filled next month for the England restart game. Tickets for the match are already on sale.

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The Rugby Football Union have asked the government for permission to host the largest number of fans so far into a UK sports event since the coronavirus lockdown, a request that would see the non-cap England international against the Barbarians become a pivotal test case in the pilot scheme aimed at returning supporters to sports contests across the UK.

“We continue to work closely with government and the local authority on the return of sports fans to the stadium,” said RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney.

“The numbers of fans able to attend, given social distancing requirements, will be significantly lower than normal and subject to final agreement from government. Local resident and spectator safety is our top priority and numerous measures are being implemented for the events that either adhere to or exceed the guidance provided by the government and the Sports Ground Safety Authority.

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“A test event will be held to put into practice our operational plans and demonstrate that Twickenham Stadium is well prepared.”

Barbarian FC president John Spencer added: “We are working closely with the RFU to ensure England v Barbarians will be an exciting match in a safe environment. The safety of players, staff and supporters is paramount. The RFU are working hard to put the necessary protocols in place and we look forward to returning to Twickenham.”

The RFU must still receive a rubber stamp from the Government to be able to allow such high numbers into Twickenham, but the English governing body insisted it already has strong social distancing plans in place. “The number of fans allowed into Twickenham Stadium for the fixture is based on social-distancing requirements to mitigate against the risk of Covid-19 transmission,” read an RFU statement.

“Subject to obtaining the relevant license and approvals including those from public health authorities, spectator numbers will be up to 20,000; less than 25 per cent of the stadium’s total 82,000 capacity. Attendees can only buy tickets seated together for people in a single household, including their support bubble; this includes any transferred tickets.

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“Tickets will initially be available to those with an existing booking from the postponed fixture, followed by a priority booking window for First XV members on September 7.”

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