French declaration delivers huge blow to hopes of English rugby league restart

A FRENCH government ruling that there will be no sport until September is a major blow to English rugby league’s hopes of a return any time soon.

France prime minister Edouard Philippe said on Tuesday that even games played behind closed doors would be banned. Generally, lockdown conditions in one of the countries hardest hit by Covid-19 will begin to be eased on May 11.

But that is cold comfort to officials of Super League and the Championship, who have Catalans and Toulouse in their respective competitions.

“The big sporting affairs cannot occur before September,” Phillipe said.

“The 2019-2020 season of professional sports, including football, will not be able to resume.

“It will be possible, on sunny days, to practice an individual sporting activity outdoors, obviously respecting the rules of social distancing.

“It will not be possible, neither to practice sport in covered places, nor team or contact sports.”

English rugby league, like other UK sports, has been keeping a lid on all speculation about resuming 2020 competitions. But RFL CEO Ralph Rimmer has said the league will follow the lead of other professional sports like soccer, rugby union, cricket and racing.

He previously commented “If we can produce content then we should”.

However, it may now not be able to follow the other codes into a restart; those sports do not feature overseas sides in their domestic club competitions.

It is also unlikely Toulouse and Catalans can enjoy the same exemptions afforded the NRL’s New Zealand Warriors, who will fly to Australia and spend two weeks in quarantine in Tamworth.

Rugby League does not enjoy anything like the same political influence in France and, in the case of Toulouse Olympique, many of the players are part time.

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