At the end of last week, the RFU published adapted community competition plans for adult and age grade rugby in the 2020/21 season and have outlined October, November, and January as three possible return dates for the National Leagues.

As seen on…..

There are a range of 2020/21 competition models that can be applied at different season start dates as and when it is deemed safe to return to play i.e. when we reach Phase F on the RFU Return to Rugby roadmap.

The models allow for any potential interruption in the season as a result of Covid-19, while providing clubs and players with a framework for meaningful competitive rugby with greater flexibility to enable games to be played.

The models were developed by two working groups, one for the adult game and the other for age grade rugby, and the outcomes were approved by the RFU Governance Committee.

Each group has considered player welfare, flexibility in response to Covid-19, adaptable models that prioritise local matches early in the season to reduce travel, support club revenue, and maintain player participation. Headlines for each area of the game are laid out below with links to further information and FAQs where required.

Adult Male Competitions

The competition models are based on three potential start windows depending on when it becomes safe to return to play.

The models vary according to league size and offer flexibility to manage any potential Covid-19 interruptions, with the season able to be extended to the end of May if it helps support delivery of a meaningful competition. To further support clubs with flexibility, league rugby will be prioritised over Cup and County Championships.

What are the competition models?

If rugby starts in Window 1 (Competitions able to start by October 3rd)

·       NCA teams – a full regular season of home and away fixtures will be delivered.

If rugby starts in Window 2:  (Competitions able to start by November 28th)

·      NCA teams – a full round of home or away fixtures will be delivered (15 fixtures). At this point the league will be separated into two groups of 8. Teams in the top 8 league positions go into one group and the next 8 teams go into another group. From here, teams play each other home OR away in their group, thus a further 7 fixtures (22 fixtures in total).

If rugby starts in Window 3: (Competitions able to start by January 30th 2021)

·       NCA teams  – a full round of home or away fixtures will be delivered (15 fixtures) – the league winner would be decided by the results of these fixtures.


The dates above reflect the possibility of extending the season into May. This exists only as an option currently. Agreement by league regulations is required before approval to play into May is granted.

Steve Grainger, RFU Rugby Development Director, commenting on the return to competitive play said: “The competition models we’re outlining today demonstrate our commitment to having competitive rugby played in clubs and education settings as soon as it is safely possible.

“In addition to the competition framework, we are working on plans with Sport England and the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport about how we accelerate some form of a return to community rugby. We’ll share our work on this with you as soon as it is available.”

Covid-19 has brought about lots of challenges for us all and the RFU seeks to provide support to clubs and the education sector where it is able. In addition to the current support already available to clubs, in 2020/21 a support fund will be made available to clubs experiencing the greatest financial difficulties, details of which it is hoped can be issued in the next few weeks.

Funding previously provided for travel expenses within RFU competitions will form part of this fund, but there will not be a specific ring-fenced travel funding payment for the 2020/21 season.