The Rugby Football Union has confirmed the Premier 15s, its top domestic women’s competition, will be paused until the end of the month because of the escalating coronavirus crisis, as revealed by Telegraph Sport earlier this week.
The Premier 15s falls under the Government’s interpretation of ‘elite’ sport and is technically allowed to continue during lockdown, but there had been growing concern over player welfare, with no Covid-19 testing in the elite amateur league.
Last week, the RFU insisted that law variations brought into the league - such as reduced scrums - remained adequate in minimising face-to-face contact despite the Covid-19 variant being much more transmissible than earlier forms of the virus.
Premiership Rugby’s decision last Monday to put the men’s top-flight on a two-week break following the suspension of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup is thought to have pushed the RFU into considering whether it was morally acceptable for its flagship women’s competition to continue.
The postponement of this year's Women’s Six Nations means that fixtures in the Premier 15s will also have to be rescheduled, with the RFU set to confirm new dates in due course.
Nicky Ponsford, the RFU head of women’s performance, said: “After consultation with representatives from Premier 15s clubs we have decided to pause the league until the end of the month.
“The rescheduling of the Six Nations will hopefully enable us to play games over the original Six Nations period providing it is safe to do so and we’ll be working hard to finalise a structure and implement agreed intensive protocols across the league.
“We are also very mindful that a number of club medical staff and players work in the NHS so this is also an opportunity for them to break from rugby duties.
“While we aim to return at the end of the month, we are conscious this is a fluid situation and we will continue to review and evaluate during this playing break. We’d like to thank all clubs for their continued efforts, co-operation and support during this period.”