RFU plans to allow upwards of 20,000 fans attend the England versus Barbarians game on October 25 appear to have been dashed along with Premiership Rugby’s hopes that fans would be allowed go to the previous day’s Gallagher Premiership final.   

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With Premiership Rugby part of the series of pilot events that have allowed fans return in small numbers to a variety of sports events in the UK in recent weeks, there were hopes that the green light would be given on October 1 for the capacity to be increased. 

However, despite the success of the pilot events at Harlequins (v Bath) and Gloucester (v Harlequins) which respectively accommodated 2,750 and 1,000 fans at The Stoop and Kingsholm, UK cabinet office minister Michael Gove revealed on Tuesday that plans for increased numbers of fans to watch live sports events in England from October 1 will now not go ahead. 

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Former England international Steffon Armitage guests on the latest episode of the Le French Rugby podcast

With the UK’s Covid-19 alert level moving to 4, meaning transmission is “high or rising exponentially”, Gove told BBC Breakfast: “We were looking at a staged programme of more people returning – it wasn’t going to be the case that we were going to have stadiums thronged with fans.

“We’re looking at how we can, for the moment, pause that programme, but what we do want to do is to make sure that, as and when circumstances allow, get more people back. The virus is less likely to spread outdoors than indoors but again it’s in the nature of major sporting events that there’s a lot of mingling.”

Tuesday night’s Premiership derby between Bath and Gloucester following by next week’s meeting of Bristol and Leicester were to complete the series of pilot rugby events with a view to increasing stadium capacities from the start of October onwards in time for the climax of the restarted 2019/20 Premiership season and the resumption of England matches leading into the new Autumn Nations Cup.  

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