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The Top 14's radically different approach to social distancing

By Online Editors
Fans wearing protective facemasks watch a scrum during a friendly rugby union match between Agen and Castres at The Stade Armandie in Agen, south-western France on August 14, 2020, ahead of the start of the Top 14 2020/2021 season. (Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT / AFP) (Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP via Getty Images)

While supporters across Europe are still getting used to the return of live rugby, images from France this weekend have shown a very different approach to social distancing. Unlike the Gallagher Premiership and Guinness Pro14, where games are currently being played behind closed doors, sporting events in France are permitted to have a limited attendance of up to 5,000 people.

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Yet images shared on social media from a pre-season friendly between La Rochelle and Toulouse on Saturday appear to show a loose approach to social distancing.

While it would have been expected that supporters would be spaced out around the stadium, supporters were instead allowed sit in groups along the bottom tier of the main stand, with the upper half of the stand remaining empty.

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At one end of the ground another small stand was open on both the top and bottom tiers, with supporters again clearly allowed to sit together in large groups.

The game was played at the Beaublanc Municipal Stadium in Limoges, and although social distancing measures do not seem to have been enforced in the stands, most supporters appeared to be wearing face coverings.

Toulouse held a 7-0 lead at half-time thanks to a converted Cheslin Kolbe try, but took control after the restart to run out convincing 38-0 winners with further tries from Antoine Miquel, Maxime Marty, Matthis Lebel and Maxime Médard.

The 2020/21 Top 14 campaign is due to start on September 4, and the current 5,000 capacity limit is expected to remain in place until early October at the earliest, despite some calls to allow an increased attendance limit.

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