11 The Daily Telegraph Tuesday 28 July 2020 *** Sport Rugby Union England to take on Ireland and Wales in ‘Eight Nations’ deputy rugby correspondent By Daniel Schofield Fiji also set to join group for tournament starting on Nov 14 RFU chief Sweeney hopes for 40,000 Twickenham crowd first sporting event to allow crowds in England since the Covid-19 lockdown was imposed, with the World Snooker Championship and Glorious Goodwood to stage further test events in front of spectators. That should pave the way for crowds to be permitted at Twickenham, albeit at a fraction of its 80,000 capacity, which will bring significant financial relief to the Rugby Football Union, which was forecasting losses of £122 million with no matches. Bill Sweeney, the RFU chief executive, hopes crowds of up to 40,000 will be allowed. understands that while England will host Ireland and Fiji at Twickenham, they will not necessarily take on Wales at headquarters as that game is provisionally listed as an away fixture. Although the Welsh Rugby Union has ruled out staging matches at the Principality Stadium, it is still exploring options in Wales, including the Liberty Stadium or the Cardiff City Stadium. The WRU could still take the game across the border, depending on what crowd sizes are allowed, but is keen not to hand England home advantage. The tournament will begin on Nov 14 and run for four consecutive weekends, with a finale on Dec 5. The outstanding final round of Six Nations matches – Wales v Scotland, France v Ireland and Italy v England – has been scheduled for Oct 31, a week after the other postponed fixture, Ireland v Italy. Official confirmation of those fixtures is expected next week. England lead the table on points England are set for a blockbuster autumn series against Wales, Ireland and Fiji as part of a proposed “Eight Nations” tournament. With southern hemisphere nations New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and Australia unlikely to be allowed to travel north because of coronavirus restrictions, Six Nations chiefs have acted to fill the gap in the international schedule by creating a one-off competition. Fiji and Japan are to be invited to join the traditional Six Nations countries in two pools of four. The second group will be made up of France, Scotland, Italy and Japan. Each team will play their pool opponents once. After the group stages, the tournament will become a play-off format, with each team facing their equivalent in the opposite pool. Six Nations organisers are waiting for a decisive World Rugby Council vote on the extended international window on Thursday, with an announcement expected midAugust. Much has yet to be decided, particularly concerning venues and whether crowds will be allowed, which remains in the hands of national governments. The two-day cricket friendly at the Kia Oval between Surrey and Middlesex, which started on Sunday, was the The Daily Telegraph The Telegraph difference from France, though Ireland could leapfrog them both by winning their game in hand. It sets up a gruelling schedule for England’s leading players, with the Premiership final pencilled in for Oct 24. Eddie Jones’s team also face a match against the Barbarians on Oct 25, before the real business gets under way. revealed last week that Premiership and French clubs had dropped their opposition to the extended international window, providing it did not become permanent. The 2020-21 Premiership season begins on Nov 20, so clubs will be missing leading players for the first three weeks of the new campaign.
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