The IRFU has today confirmed the 2020/21 season plan for club competitions that will see the forthcoming season modified to focus on COVID-19 risk mitigation.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) July 9, 2020
The season will be split into two stages – stage 1 will keep all friendlies and competitive matches localised between September and December 2020 and Stage 2 will see a reformatted All-Ireland League commence in January.
The All-Ireland League element has a provisional start date of January 9th, 2021. It will consist of a nine-game league season with semi-finals and finals in all men’s and women’s divisions. The size and make-up of each 10-team division remains unchanged from the finishing positions of 2019-20. As it is a shortened format, the IRFU has confirmed that no promotion or relegation will take place.
"To ensure competitive rugby in Stage 1 all AIL clubs will compete in the Energia Community Series run across newly formed localised conferences," said a statement from the IRFU.
"Success in these conferences will bring with them both silverware and the chance to qualify for knockout rugby at an All-Ireland level in Stage 2 of the season."
IRFU Rugby Committee Chair Greg Barrett commented:
“Our Return To Rugby Guidelines For Clubs mapped out a ‘safety first’ approach for clubs and we continue to be guided by this and the work of IRFU Medical Director Rod McLoughlin as we build towards a resumption of competitive rugby in 2020.
“While there are many factors which helped shape this season outline, you will see that player welfare and COVID-19 risk mitigation are by far the biggest consideration.
“We are also hopeful that a focus on keeping rugby at a localised level in the first stage of the season brings with it an opportunity for clubs to re-energise their membership.”