It seemed an extreme timeline yet, French Top14 rugby has met and passed the September return date. Now rugby fans can rejoice, players can again celebrate together, as the whistle blows ‘time on’.
Sitting idle for nearly four months, after the French government ruled that all sport would be postponed during the Coronavirus pandemic, there has been no competition since. The 2019/20 season ended abruptly so with the September 5 restart date met, the French Top14 clubs have been fizzing to get a run.
Not choosing to continue with their interrupted season gives this restart a fresh feel. Not needing to play catch-up games like in the Premiership, French Top14 is the beginning of something new. And it has not come soon enough for their fans.
French Top14 ready as September return date reached
The Bouclier de Brennus, or Brennus Shield for English speaking fans, is up for grabs once again. The 2020/21 season will run from September until June next year. An incredible 10 months of competition, to celebrate the 122nd French domestic rugby season.
With all 14 sides competing for the prize, this year some will want to avenge for the nullified 2019/20 season. Bordeaux Bègles were looking like champions for the first time in many years, so look to them to want a good start.
Players have been hard at work, training to get back to fitness for a full 80-minute match. Clearly, some will still have rust but the priority for all involved is the ongoing Covid-19 threat.
BREAKING – Opening match postponed: Stade v Bordeaux
Sadly, that threat was realized for two French clubs. Parisian club, Stade Francais had to announce on September 1, that their opening game would be postponed.
News that positive tests for Covid-19 at the home team’s stadium, immediately saw management make the right call to postpone their Round One game against Bordeaux.
Under these conditions, the “Covid Expertise Commission” created for the exceptional occasion in the League decided to postpone the match against Bordeaux Bègles, citing the superior reason for the health of the players. Not yet rescheduled, the meeting could be played on the weekend of 26-27.
Pour cause de cluster au Stade français, le match qui devait opposer l'équipe parisienne à Bordeaux est reporté. Un début de championnat de France perturbé, alors que les clubs, très dépendants des recettes de billetterie, s'alarment de la limitation du https://t.co/JXKn8Xt8gn
— Anna Gaudreault (@ladevita12) September 4, 2020
Although less than satisfactory for stakeholders, and of concern to many who feel the community spread of the virus may affect the season, no other matches have been affected for the opening weekend.
Each club will be on high alert though. Top14 must do everything in their power to have safe workplaces for players and staff. That applies to fans too, who will naturally be eager to again cheer on their club.
Spectators welcomed back to French Top14
Although still of major concern to all rugby fans, the Coronavirus risk will look to be mitigated by the majority of French Top14 clubs when matches return to stadiums across France. For example, in Brive, a maximum of 9000 spectators will be allowed into the stadium.
La première dérogation pour un match officiel vient de tomber !https://t.co/4IuuAOIuXw
— RUGBYRAMA (@RugbyramaFR) August 31, 2020
Club members were to be offered the first ticket allocation, therefore minimizing the number of people attending. That game will see social distancing measures and awareness of Covid-19 restrictions.
Numbers have been limited across the competition. Large stadiums will need to focus on separate entrances for the groups of fans, and travel for away fans could only see the hardiest in attendance. But, if the opening weekend goes well, it will bode well for a positive season.
Last Word on Rugby hopes that all teams get to play the full 80 minutes, even with the Stade Francais team having to postpone their opening match.
Premiership Rugby and Guinness PRO14 have each had to adapt to the new conditions and the welfare of all stakeholders. French Top14 will be no different. Round One may feel a little strange, after the enforced hiatus. But as players become more comfortable within their groups, and games continue unimpeded, expect the play to again epitomize the classic French style.
— TOP 14 Rugby (@top14rugby) September 4, 2020
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images