England to host 20,000 fans for Baa-Baas clash

Rugby

England’s rescheduled match against the Barbarians will be played on Oct. 25 with 20,000 supporters set to attend the game at Twickenham pending approval from public health authorities, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) said on Wednesday.

The match, originally scheduled to take place on June 21 was postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic and will be played before England travel to Italy for their rearranged final Six Nations game on Oct. 31.

“This game will be an important start to the autumn for us,” England head coach Eddie Jones said in a statement. “We’re excited to represent England. We’ll train and prepare well and are looking forward to being back at Twickenham Stadium.”

RFU CEO Bill Sweeney said the body was working closely with the government and local authority on the return of fans to Twickenham, which has a total capacity of 82,000.

“The number of fans able to attend, given social distancing requirements, will be significantly lower than normal and subject to final agreement from government,” he said.

Sweeney also added that a test event will be held to put into practice their operational plans and demonstrate that Twickenham is well prepared.

Meanwhile, formats for the 2020-21 editions of Europe’s Champions Cup and Challenge Cup have been overhauled because of the pandemic with an expanded knockout stage, European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) said on Wednesday.

According to the new formats, unanimously agreed upon by the EPCR board, the elite Champions Cup will be contested by 24 clubs — four more than in regular seasons — with eight top-ranked sides each from the Premiership, Pro14 and Top14.

A draw will be held to split the teams into two pools of 12 each, with four rounds of games held over eight weekends before the knockouts, which consist of home-and-away quarterfinals, semifinals and the final in Marseille on May 22.

“With an expanded knockout stage and no repeats of domestic matches during the pool stage, this format creates brand new competitive opportunities for Europe’s elite clubs and their fans,” EPCR chairman Simon Halliday said in a statement.

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