RFL cancels reserve league for 2020

Competitive reserve grade rugby league has been cancelled for the rest of 2020, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wednesday, 22nd April 2020, 4:21 pm
Muizz Mustapha, pictured on his first team debut magianst Workington last year, was among the try scorers for Rhinos reserves when they began their season with a win over Bradford Bulls.

A reserve team competition was reintroduced this year to strengthen the game's talent and performance pathway, but has now fallen victim to Covid-19.

A statement from the Rugby Football League confirmed: "In consultation with clubs, the RFL has determined that the reserves league should be cancelled for 2020.

"Clubs will still be encouraged to play friendly matches and it is envisaged that the competition will resume in 2021 – with all decisions to be taken in line with government advice."

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Rhinos academy coach Chev Walker. Picture by Steve Riding.

It added: "With all rugby league activity currently suspended, cancelling the remainder of the reserves league fixtures scheduled for 2020 is a recognition of the need to focus on re-arranging postponed first Team matches and to ensure player welfare and competition integrity."

The RFL say clubs have been consulted over this season's under-18 academy and under-16 scholarship seasons and any decisions will be made in line with government advice.

Dave Rotheram, the RFL’s chief on-field officer, said: “We have had extensive discussions with clubs about how best to amend our schedules for the reserves league, academy Championship and under-16s scholarship in this unprecedented period, bearing in mind the three pillars of player welfare, competition integrity and financial sustainability.

“We regarded the revival of a reserves league as an important step forward this year, the clubs were supportive of that and the season had started well until the abrupt suspension of all rugby league activity last month.

Batley's Danny Bravo is a member of Rhinos' reserve team squad. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

“We have to recognise that the priority for clubs whenever activity can resume will be completing the first team season, and that is why we have cancelled the reserves league for 2020."

But Rotheram insisted: "Clubs are aware that they have invested in the return of reserves and made commitments to players, so we will be encouraging them to be imaginative in finding ways to provide competitive rugby for squad players, by arranging friendly fixtures which could involve pooling players between clubs, or even playing nines matches or festivals.

“We will also need to be flexible in terms of resuming the academy Championship for under-18s, and the under-16s scholarship programme and we have already spoken to heads of youth about some possible changes to the schedule.

“Public health remains the priority for the RFL and the sport, but we are also determined to ensure the game is ready to resume in the strongest possible way whenever that is appropriate and the talented young players in our clubs’ academies and scholarship programmes will have a big part to play in our future.”

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