GRASSROOTS rugby has been landed a devastating blow after it was announced competitive rugby has been delayed until January 2021.

In a statement, the RFU Governance Committee announced that, with the exception of Premiership, Championship and Premier 15s rugby, no organised RFU or non-RFU Leagues will be played before January 2021 at the earliest.

With the increased uncertainly caused by Government’s additional restrictions to curb the increase in Covid-19 cases across the country, the RFU said the decision has been made to provide clubs with some certainty over the next few months.

The rugby community can continue to organise non-contact fixtures with other clubs using Ready4Rugby and other touch rugby activity. Limited and restricted contact rugby training can also be continued.

The RFU continues to be in active dialogue with government about moving to Stage E on the Roadmap should that point be reached any time before Christmas, competitive friendly matches could commence.

Jeff Blackett, RFU President, said: “We are very keen to see competitive rugby being played again. However, given the introduction of further restrictions to curb the increase in Covid-19 cases, we will not be able to move to Stage F on the Roadmap until a later date. This announcement gives clubs clarity over the immediate term to help them with their planning.

Mr Blackett added that Further guidance will be provided in due course to support clubs, schools, colleges and universities in playing to the relevant stage of the appropriate Roadmap stage.

Bill Sweeney, RFU chief executive, said the lack of fans at games means community rugby will lose an estimated £86m in revenue this season.

"Premiership and Championship Clubs will face significant financial hardship. Our community rugby clubs, many of which run grounds at the heart of their communities are under threat," he said.

"No crowds at Twickenham, the Premiership and community game will have severe consequences for the sport in England across all levels."