Premiership Rugby have cancelled this year’s Premiership Rugby Cup which was scheduled to be played as a midweek competition commencing in April. Ongoing issues with the pandemic are said to be at fault for the decision that will deny fringe players the opportunity of more game time.
It was October when the Premiership’s professional game board decided that the tournament – won last September by Sale in the final against Harlequins – would this season be development focused and contain only club registered players.
Steps were also taken to ensure that players would not be selected in a matchday squad if they had played 20 minutes or more on the previous weekend or a midweek game in that week.
However, the plan to press ahead with the tournament has now been shelved, a Premiership Rugby statement outlining: “The pandemic continues to present significant challenges for sport and following consultation with our clubs over the past few weeks we have decided to cancel the Premiership Rugby Cup for this season.
“Alternative options were considered but all raised concerns around the safety of players and the risk of games not being completed, so in the light of these player welfare and competition integrity concerns, the Cup cannot proceed this season.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 17, 2021
“The 2020/21 Premiership Rugby Cup was planned as a development competition, but it was clear that in this unique season it would not be possible to add additional players to playing squads and properly prepare them for competition without compromising the clubs’ Covid-19 training bubble which everyone has fought so hard to protect.”
On hearing the news, Exeter boss Rob Baxter said: “All I can say is when we were asked about it we said we felt we could fulfil the fixtures so that was our individual standpoint on it. We have got young players here who have not played rugby for a long time and we would have put a team out there that we felt would have allowed those young guys and guys who haven’t played much to get some game time.
“We would certainly have taken it as a complete development competition potentially with a couple of senior players who haven’t had much rugby or someone returning from a longish term injury. That is how we would have used it to fulfil the fixtures,” continued Baxter, the boss of the 2019/20 Premiership and European double winners.
“At the same time, I can understand why some clubs feel they can’t fulfil the fixtures, their squads aren’t big enough or maybe they haven’t got the players there, they haven’t got them in training or their academy group together, whatever it may be. I understand both sides of the argument. We would have fulfilled the fixtures but I can understand why other clubs feel they can’t.”
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— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 16, 2021
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