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Lee Blackett: Three week Prem break the preferred option

By PA
Alex McHenry of Wasps dejected (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

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Wasps head coach Lee Blackett would rather see the Gallagher Premiership paused than matches being staged behind closed doors.

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Blackett is desperate for the English league to avoid the restrictions that will take effect in Welsh and Scottish sport from Boxing Day as the Government considers a circuit-breaker lockdown in response to the surge in Covid cases.

All matches in Wales are to be played in front of empty stands, while north of the border outdoor events are being limited to 500 people with social distancing measures in place.

Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam fears that the Premiership might not survive another lockdown as clubs grapple with the financial losses caused by the pandemic and Blackett believes there would be agreement on a temporary suspension of the competition.

“I don’t think anyone wants three or four weeks without supporters. If that’s the case, we’ll have to look at a circuit-break,” Blackett said.

“It’s my personal view. I just think it’s the best thing for the game. I can’t imagine clubs are going to say, ‘let’s play three weeks with no fans’.

“If we had to take a three-week break without fans I’m pretty sure everyone would be on the same page.

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“From my perspective that’s where I’d want to go as everyone needs supporters in from a player/coaching side as players play better with them in. It’s proven that the intensity of games is higher.

“If we can have that little break and then we might have to play in mid-week, it would be in the best interests of the clubs financially and for the players as well.

“Everyone wants to play with supporters – that’s the selfish perspective. It’s a better spectacle for the sport and for the TV.”

Lam revealed that Bristol lost around £300,000 in match-day revenue after Scarlets forfeited their recent Heineken Champions Cup clash and the prospect of games over the busy festive period being called off sends a shudder across the Premiership.

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Wasps host London Irish on Boxing Day and Blackett said: “I know the Welsh regions won’t have crowds now and they’re absolutely devastated as it’s their biggest pay-day of the season. It’s like that for a lot of clubs.

“Everyone wants to play in front of massive crowds. It’s a chance to get new supporters in for the first time. Hopefully we play well and keep them. From a club’s perspective it’s pretty huge.

“What you find at Christmas is that people come for the first time and so it’s a great opportunity to try and hold on to them and keep them for the long-term.”

Joe Launchbury is on course to make his comeback from knee surgery against Wasps on January 30 after a minor thigh injury delayed his return.

If he comes through that unscathed having spent the last nine months rehabilitating his ruptured ACL, the Wasps captain will come into contention for England’s Six Nations campaign that starts against Scotland on February 5.

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