Cambridge made to wait for new NCA Cup competition
Cambridge will not be making a return to competitive rugby until February at the earliest.
There was an announcement last week that the RFU and government would allow a return to 15-a-side contact rugby, with some adaptations.
The temporary law variations, which mean there will be no scrums or mauls in the game, are aimed at limiting the risk of prolonged face-to-face contact in order to allow the community game to resume.
Clubs were given permission to begin adapted training from last Wednesday (December 2), in preparation for friendly fixtures from Friday, December 18, when the law variations will come into effect.
Plans had been revealed for a regionalised NCA Cup competition, for sides in National Leagues One and Two, and more than 90 per cent of clubs have entered.
The RFU had made a commitment to give clubs at least four weeks notice before competitive rugby can begin, making the earliest start date January 16.
But with the current tier restrictions in place, it has been felt impractical for some clubs so the tournament will be delayed until at least February in order to allow everyone an equal footing.
NCA chairman John Inverdale said: “Firstly, the RFU are only responding to what the government are announcing.
“Many of the decisions that are having to be made are not ‘rugby decisions’, and we are following the guidelines and advice which has been given to us.
“For the cup competition, the reality is over 40 per cent of the clubs who want to take part are currently in Tier Three.
“The groups for the cup competition have all been done geographically, but only two of the groups have all of their clubs in Tiers One or Two so you can’t expect a group which contains a high proportion of clubs in Tier Three to start their fixtures at the same time.
“The county clusters may well start in mid-January, but they can operate independently because teams in those clusters are all in the same tier, but because we are a national competition, we have to be aware of all the issues facing all our clubs.
“The enthusiasm for the competition is still considerable and people want us all to get it up and running for so many reasons, but it has to be done fairly to maintain the integrity of the competition. On the first weekend of the NCA Cup, we would like as many teams as possible to be involved so that it can start with a bang and not a whimper.”
With no scrums or mauls under the adapted rules, there has been an insistence to make sure that front-row players who will not be able to exercise their core skills still have a central role in teams.
Inverdale added: “ As such, three front-row players will have to be on the field at all times to ensure continuing participation of front-row forwards, but more importantly, to keep them engaged with the sport.”