The NCA has welcomed the news from the Rugby Football Union and Government regarding a return to 15-a-side contact rugby, with some adaptations. 

This follows the Government’s announcement last week that outdoor team sport can resume from Wednesday 2 December.

This latest update represents another small step in the right direction and makes the outlook a little bit clearer for all our clubs going forward.

By using the temporary law variations, this will limit the risk of prolonged face-to-face contact, allowing the community game to resume (everything below the Greene King IPA Championship and Allianz Premier 15s).

Clubs will be able to begin adapted training from tomorrow, Wednesday 2 December, in preparation for local friendly fixtures recommencing from Friday 18 December, when the following law variations will come into effect. These will also apply to the NCA Cup competition for which more than 90 per cent of clubs have entered:

  • There will be no scrums or mauls in the game.
  • Instead of a scrum, the game will begin with a free-kick. This free kick cannot be taken quickly.
  • A minimum of five and a maximum of seven players from each team are required to form a lineout.
  • A team awarded a penalty or free-kick will no longer be able to choose a scrum option.
  • A team awarded a penalty or free-kick at a lineout can instead choose another lineout at the same mark.

These law variations will be reviewed as the season progresses and as restrictions change.

Clubs in all tiers will be able to return to Stage E on the Return to Community Rugby Roadmap. Further guidance on travel within/between tiers will be issued following the publication of government guidance.

RFU Rugby Development Director Steve Grainger said: “We are delighted that our submission has been approved to return to a format of 15 a-side rugby and we thank Government for working with us to find a solution that enables the safe return of the community game.

“In recent months, we have received growing support from clubs and players in favour of adaptations, with law variations preferable to the option of no rugby at all. This is wonderful news for community clubs, their volunteers, players and supporters around the country, who can now look forward to playing contact rugby for the first time since March.

“We now need to be as safe as we possibly can be and comply with all off-field social distancing and Covid-secure guidance to ensure we can continue our phased return to full contact rugby when it is safe to do so.”

England Head Coach Eddie Jones added: “I know how much work has gone into getting international rugby back.

“Having community rugby back is the next step in getting the game up and running and I am pleased for everyone involved in the community game, which has gone through a very tough time.

“They can now get excited about having rugby back in their lives.”

The NCA has announced that the start of the cup competition will be delayed following the Government COVID announcement earlier this week.

Given the RFU’s commitment to give clubs at least four weeks notice before competitive rugby can begin.

We, of course, we’re hoping for the competition to start then, but due to the additional guidelines regarding travelling to participate in rugby activity, this will be impractical for some of our clubs.

The start of the tournament will be delayed until at least February in order to allow everyone an equal footing.

We are still delighted, though, that over 90 per cent of clubs have expressed an interest in taking part.

NCA Chairman John Inverdale explained: “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.”

The competition will also begin under the new law adaptations, which will mean an absence of scrums and mauls.

There have been calls within the community game to ‘look after’ front-row players who will not be able to exercise their core skills within the law variations and the NCA are fully committed to keeping every player engaged in the sport.

Inverdale added: “I agree with this and so do several Directors of Rugby whom I have spoken toAs 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.”

The NCA will continue to update our clubs regarding any further developments and we once again thank you for your patience and support.

The National Clubs Association is delighted to announce the groupings for our cup competition. 

All 44 teams taking part in the tournament have learned their groups as our NCA clubs aim to make a return to action in 2021.

The groups have been allocated based on geographical regions to reduce travel times for clubs as we continue to adapt to the challenges presented to us by COVID-19 pandemic.

All teams within a group will play each other twice in a home-and-away format before separating into a knock-out competition with the other regional groups.

One of the standout groups includes National One sides Rosslyn Park, Rams RFC and Chinnor who will all be going head-to-head.

A full list of the groups are below:

Group 1: Blaydon, Darlington Mowden Park, Tynedale, Wharfedale, Harrogate

Group 2: Barnes, Chinnor, Esher, Henley Hawks, Rams RFC, Rosslyn Park

Group 3: Birmingham Moseley, Leicester Lions, Stourbridge, Luctonians, Cinderford, Hinckley, Loughborough Students.

Group 4: Blackheath, Canterbury, Old Elthamians, Tonbridge Juddians, Worthing Raiders

Group 5: Sale FC, Caldy, Chester, Fylde, Sedgley Park

Group 6: Bishop’s Stortford, Bury St Edmunds, Cambridge, Old Albanian, Westcliff

Group 7: Leeds Tykes, Huddersfield, Sheffield Tigers, Hull, Hull Ionians

Group 8: Plymouth Albion, Barnstaple, Redruth, Clifton, Dings Crusaders, Taunton

The start of the tournament will be delayed until at least February in order to allow everyone to start on an equal footing.