By David Wilkinson
Andy Appleyard, our Senior Lead Coach at Macclesfield Rugby Club, will have had all his ducks-in-a-row, with a meticulous plan, leading up to the delayed start of the season and full-contact rugby; equally the players will have been champing-at-the-bit to get out there and show what they can do; not to mention the hundreds of supporters missing their Saturday afternoon sport and looking forward to cheering on the Macc Lads; sadly the RFU’s announcement, along with Government’s, has ground all expectations to a halt.
Last Thursday the RFU announced that they were cancelling the Adult Competitive Leagues, below the Championship, for the 2019/21 season. Their reasoning, according to the England Rugby website was: “We believe that, even if a return to full contact rugby becomes possible, playing a meaningful competitive league season resulting in promotion and relegation is no longer feasible”; and that they had made that decision now in order that they could provide some certainty for clubs for the remainder of the season. The announcement has naturally caused a quite considerable volume of negative comments, particularly from people actively involved in the administration of the community game. Six weeks ago the RFU sent out a survey to all community rugby clubs asking for their preferences on how they wished to return to rugby. The consensus was a unanimous decision to get back to competitive leagues, in whatever form. Many feel that this has been somewhat ignored by the RFU, and whilst they say that they have made their decision now: “in order that we can provide some certainty for clubs for the remainder of the season”; their current announcement has given nothing to the Clubs in terms of certainty.
It has been a topic played out on social media, with a certain past senior player devilishly suggesting that ‘Rugby League’ might be played, as the adapted league game no longer has scrums to restart play, with the only contact being in the very short tackle period. It may well be that the RFU, in due course, come up with some kind of adaptation that enables some form of contact rugby being introduced; this was one of the rumours floating around yesterday. Should this happen, as the leagues have been cancelled for the season, one assumes that the Clubs will go back to the pre-league days of, so called, friendlies! But one wonders why a truncated version of the league could not have been re considered, particularly as this is what the RFU’s member clubs had voted for.
Macclesfield Rugby Club will no doubt look at all the options, and the latest suggestions and guidelines before making an official announcement. For the meantime we go into lockdown again for at least 4 weeks, so the players will be back to personal fitness programmes at home; although they had one last hurrah on Tuesday evening with the boots on, in front of floodlights. A mini-competition of three ten-a-side teams playing for the virtual GAME-OVER trophy. At the whistle Apps whetted the appetite of the boys with the prospect of a game against our near neighbours, once we are out of lockdown. We all look forward to competitive rugby and enjoying our new outdoor SIN BIN bar.
On a wider front, the last two weekends have seen the current rugby season’s climax with the Premiership Final and the final round of the Six Nations Championship. With Sale Sharks having to forfeit their opportunity of silverware, through the ravages of Covid-19 on the squad, local interest, for many, turned to Wasps, fielding Macclesfield’s very own Tommy Taylor. The contest was nip-and-tuck, for much of the match, played in atrocious conditions. On 53 minutes Tommy left the field after a big shift, with the score 13-10 in favour of Exeter. Wasps, who had had their own problems with Covid-19 and injuries, seemed to be slightly under-powered as the game went on, with Exeter pulling further ahead. On 75 minutes Wasps had their chance, but it was spurned, as Tommy Taylor’s replacement failed to find his jumper on a long lineout call in very tough conditions; Exeter cruised to their well deserved double Championship. Fingers crossed that Tommy can get through next season without injury.
England went to Rome knowing that they had a very good chance of securing another 6 Nations Championship, as Ireland, although in the box seat, were going to face very stern opposition against the rapidly improving France team; combined with, their historical high-scoring form against Italy. It was not long before Man-of-the-Match Ben Youngs silenced his critics with the first of his smartly taken brace of tries. Although England looked undercooked for most of the first half, they pulled away comfortably in the second for a five point victory. There were still plenty of permutations to be analysed before the late kick-off in Paris, but for once the French didn’t let us down with a classy performance against a dogged Irish side. Farrell and his chums will have celebrated with some genuine fizz, but not for too long, as the Premiership is underway again in less than 3 weeks, with the Six Nations starting up in February and a mouth-watering 8 match Lions Tour to follow in July – watch this space.