A year that started with the automatic relegation of Saracens from the Gallagher Premiership as retribution for repeated wage limit violations ends with the advent of a concussion case that could have significant repercussions.
News that, after being diagnosed with early-onset dementia, a number of former players, including England internationals Steve Thompson and Michael Lipman, are taking legal action against the sport comes at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has revealed the precarious financial foundations of rugby. Club and nation alike pursued government bailouts to prevent financial catastrophe, and Covid-19’s effect was felt all the way down to the grassroots. Fans will return soon Here’s what Darren Childs, CEO of #PremRugby, had to say after the government announced the plans today pic.twitter.com/koKAKWbOS1- Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) November 23, 2020But the sport also demonstrated incredible resilience. Despite a five-month hibernation as the planet coped with the pandemic, the 2019-20 Gallagher Premiership and Champions Cup seasons have been completed. One victim of the disruption of the league was its reputation, as a series of anomalies made unavoidable by the need to schedule games during the week contributed to lopsided results, although due to an outbreak of the coronavirus, Selling was unable to take its place in the play-offs. Exeter became the fourth English club to do the double by beating Racing 92 and lifting the European Cup. Take a bow to Rob Baxter, the excellent rugby director who in 10 years has turned the Chiefs from Premiership outsiders to the continent’s dominant force. Baxter has assembled an impressive squad, but perhaps his biggest accomplishment is that he has made his teams better than the sum of their parts. This is for all the fans out there on behalf of all @ExeterChiefs – the players, coaches and staff. This is a moment we can all enjoy and remember forever in these tough times. Thank you, Family of Chiefs. October 18, 2020 #champions #eurokings pic.twitter.com/tSIpxUaVGF- Exeter Chiefs (@ExeterChiefs) Chiefs may be easy targets, but they deserve praise for keeping the sport running in the midst of a crisis that has brought unprecedented challenges. The improvised Autumn Nations Cup was created as an alternative when the Southern Hemisphere giants were deprived of the chance to visit these shores by the coronavirus. The tournament was beset with problems, from Japan’s early withdrawal to Fiji being only able to play one game due to a massive Covid-19 outbreak. Both teams’ attacking flair was desperately missing, while a series of defensively-oriented matches were played in front of empty stadiums. England made their way through the competition after capturing their third Six Nations title in the Eddie Jones period by beating Italy in October, winning eight Tests. HIGHLIGHTS | Watch the action as the men of Eddie Jones returned to the field in the final round of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations against Italy. @ITVSport #GuinnessSixNations pic.twitter.com/bUyGo8dpxP- England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 1, 2020 It was a difficult one, and the team almost fell at the final hurdle when a shadowy French side had to go into extra time with 29 seconds left to distinguish their rivals, depleted by the absence of more than 25 stars up front. Wales and Ireland endured defeats as their new coaching staff settled in, while England rounded up the victories. Because of the corona virus, the Springboks have not played a match since winning the World Cup last fall, and tournament hosts Japan were similarly absent. The Tri-Nations tournament that replaced the year-end tours to Europe was won by New Zealand, losing to a resurgent Argentina in one of the year’s standout moments.