Premier 15s season set to be paused due to coronavirus; Women's Six Nations expected to be postponed
Saracens and Harlequins are yet to play in 2021 after their last two fixtures were postponed; a formal announcement that the Premier 15s season will be paused is expected on Wednesday; Women's Six Nations and Under 20 Six Nations expected to be postponed until April
Last Updated: 13/01/21 11:26am
The Premier 15s season is set to be suspended for two weeks in a bid to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
The competition has been disrupted by Covid-19 throughout the start of 2021, with Harlequins and Saracens having each of their last two fixtures postponed.
It is understood that all fixtures in Rounds 11 and 12 will be postponed, with the competition set to get underway again on the last weekend of January.
The government has granted the league "elite sport" status, but there is no mandatory testing within the Premier 15s. However, tournament organisers have implemented temporary new laws to limit close contact between players, including a reduction in scrums and mauls.
The RFU is expected to formally announce the pause to the domestic season on Wednesday, with an announcement that the Women's Six Nations and Under 20 Six Nations are being postponed until April anticipated on the same day.
Both tournaments normally run concurrently with the men's edition, which is scheduled to get underway when Italy host France on February 6 - though France's government is demanding reassurances on safety from England and Ireland before allowing its team to visit those countries.
Only the Championship's opening fixture against Italy in Rome on February 6 has been approved by Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu.
Harlequins are currently top of the Premier 15s, having won all eight of their fixtures this season with try-bonus points. Saracens are five points behind them with a game in hand.
The French authorities have concerns over the soaring number of Covid-19 cases in the UK and Ireland and have already barred their clubs from taking part in European competition this month.
The Six Nations held talks in Paris on Tuesday and discussions will be ongoing as organisers attempt to convince the government that sufficient coronavirus protocols are in place.
It is highly unlikely the tournament would go ahead without France, who play Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on February 14 and England at Twickenham on March 13.
"We keep the first match," Maracineanu said. "On the other hand, against Ireland and England we absolutely need to have the necessary guarantees from these countries.
"There has to be proof that the other nations' virus framework respects the same requirements in terms of precaution. We expect the same thing from the other teams."