England prop Joe Marler has signed a new long-term contract with Premiership club Harlequins.

The 29-year-old has made over 200 appearances for Quins since making his debut in 2009 and there should be many more to come.

One-club man Marler has earned 71 England caps and toured New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions three years ago after making his presence felt at The Stoop before he was a teenager.

Marler said: "I am a Harlequin, and I love the club. Growing up with Harlequins as my boyhood team.

"I remember getting thrown out of The Stoop as a fan when I was 12 because I had tried to run on the pitch. Now I get the chance to continue my journey with great friends, team-mates, coaches, and fans, without getting thrown out... yet!

"I'm immensely proud to have played for Quins over 200 times so far, I even managed to convince one of the previous bosses [Conor O'Shea] to make me captain once. 

"Even more so during this [coronavirus] pandemic affecting every single one of us, I cannot wait for my next opportunity to pull on the jersey, run out at The Stoop and welcome back the Quins family."

News of Marler's new deal on Friday came after it was announced that the Premiership Rugby are planning for the season to resume on August 15, five months after it was suspended due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Marler was banned for 10 weeks for grabbing Alun Wyn Jones' genitals during England's Six Nations win over Wales in March, but that suspension has now been wiped as a result of the hiatus.

The 2019-20 Premiership season is set to return on August 15, five months after it was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this week Premiership and Championship clubs were given permission to return to non-contact training, provided they observe social distancing measures.

While no further information was given regarding the format for the remainder of the campaign, Premiership Rugby chief executive Darren Childs stressed it was vital that clubs had a target return date to work towards.

"Nothing will happen until it is safe to do so but we will do everything we can to resume the 2019-20 Premiership Rugby campaign on Saturday 15 August," Childs said.

“We won't take risks with people's health, and rugby has unique challenges due to levels of proximity and impact, but with a number of clubs moving to Stage 1, it is important for us to give players, coaches and clubs clarity on when they can look to return.

"Bearing that in mind, we look forward to the restart of the season."

Each of the 12 Premiership clubs had played 13 fixtures prior to the campaign being halted, meaning they all had nine matches remaining.

Exeter Chiefs were top of the table, five points clear of Sale Sharks, while Saracens were bottom of the table and have already been relegated following a points deduction due to salary cap breaches.

Saracens have been assured they will be able to complete their European Champions Cup defence even if they are relegated to the Championship first.

The reigning English and European champions will be demoted from the Premiership to the second tier for next term following salary-cap breaches.

The club were deducted 105 points, guaranteeing their relegation, but have continued to progress in the Champions Cup.

The season's suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic throws up some difficulties, however, as sport is set to return behind closed doors in England before some other European countries.

The Champions Cup may therefore not be concluded until after the next domestic campaign has started in England, with Saracens by then in the Championship.

But European Professional Club Rugby chairman Simon Halliday insists the team's European challenge will not be impacted.

"Saracens have qualified for the quarter-finals and I'll defend their right to complete the Champions Cup campaign no matter what," Halliday said, quoted in the Mirror.

"As long as we can complete the tournament, they should be allowed to participate for as long as they keep on winning."

Saracens have won the Champions Cup in three of the past four seasons and defeated Leinster in the 2018-19 final.

They will face the Irish province again in the last eight of this term's competition.

Premiership and Championship rugby sides have been given permission to return to non-contact training.

The Professional Game Board (PGB) confirmed on Tuesday that teams are now allowed to hold individual conditioning sessions provided social distancing measures are maintained.

The top flight in England was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it is hoped the season can be resumed, despite all levels from the Championship and below seeing their campaigns cancelled.

"The clubs will need to satisfy a number of requirements to start Stage 1 as we continue the huge amount of work being undertaken to enable a safe return to training," Chris Booy, PGB Chair, said in a statement.

"The welfare of the players, management and staff is our only priority, and we look forward to the season resuming when it is safe to do so."

Premiership clubs have also given unanimous backing to an overhaul of salary-cap regulations.

A review led by Lord Myners put forward 52 recommendations last month as part of a comprehensive assessment of the cap rules.

Although neither the level of the salary cap nor the issue around marquee player allowances have yet been addressed, all 52 recommendations put forward have won the support of clubs.

The suggested changes include increasing the severity of sporting sanctions on clubs in breach of the rules to include relegation, suspension, stripping of titles and the return of prize money.

The review followed the decision to relegate reigning champions Saracens at the end of 2019-20 due to repeated breaches of the salary cap.

Elite sport is gradually returning to our screens amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Germany's Bundesliga, the UFC and the NRL were among the first top-level events to forge a route back last month after pausing due to the global crisis.

A clutch of Europe's other top football leagues, cricket, motorsport and the United States' major competitions all have designs on behind-closed-doors resumptions in the near future, too, which could create a significant backlog of crucial fixtures.

One positive is that sports fans might now be treated to a number of colossal match-ups back-to-back on the same day at some point over the coming months.

That prospect gives us the opportunity to reflect on five similar occasions with the greatest sporting days since the turn of the century - including one exactly a year ago.

 

JULY 23, 2000

The US had a day to remember as two of their most prominent stars bolstered their still burgeoning reputations with big victories on foreign soil.

The paths of Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong have subsequently diverged a little, however.

Woods became the youngest player to complete golf's career grand slam with a record-breaking victory at The Open in 2000, while Armstrong wrapped up a second straight Tour de France title.

The American duo stood at the top of the world, yet history will recall Armstrong's achievements rather differently now he has been stripped of each of his seven successive yellow jerseys for doping.

Woods at least maintained his high standards and held all four major titles after the 2001 Masters, winning again at Augusta as recently as last year.

FEBRUARY 1, 2004

Two more sporting greats shared the same special page in the calendar early in 2004.

It was a long day for anyone who took in both Roger Federer's performance in Melbourne's Australian Open final and Tom Brady's Super Bowl display in Houston, but they were duly rewarded.

Twenty-time grand slam champion Federer had won just one major before facing down Marat Safin in Australia, also becoming the ATP Tour's top-ranked player for the first time. He stayed at number one for a record-shattering 237 weeks.

Brady similarly then doubled his tally of Super Bowl rings by delivering a second triumph in three years for the Patriots, in what was a classic encounter against the Carolina Panthers.

Brady threw for 354 yards and three touchdowns, before Adam Vinatieri's field goal secured a 32-29 win with four seconds remaining.

AUGUST 4-5, 2012

One would struggle to find a greater array of star-studded athletes of various sports than those who congregated in London across the penultimate weekend of the 2012 Olympic Games.

On the Saturday evening, at the Aquatics Centre, swimming prepared to say goodbye to its greatest name. Michael Phelps and the United States won the 4x100m medley, clinching his 18th gold medal in what appeared set to be his final race.

Indeed, Phelps confirmed his retirement following the Games, only to return in predictably dominant fashion in 2016.

Across the city that same night, Team GB athletes were capping a stunning run of medals that would see the day dubbed "Super Saturday". There were six home golds in all, including big wins for Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah in quick succession.

The drama only continued the next day, too, as Andy Murray finally sealed a Wimbledon win over Federer in the tennis event, while Usain Bolt lit up London Stadium in the 100m.

JUNE 1, 2019

It is 12 months to the day since another epic sporting stretch, one that concluded in stunning fashion with one of boxing's great modern upsets.

Rugby union and football each had their respective turns in the spotlight earlier, with Saracens following up their European Champions Cup success - a third in four years - by retaining the Premiership title with victory over Exeter Chiefs.

In Madrid, two more English teams were in action as Liverpool edged past Tottenham in the Champions League final.

But as Sarries and the Reds celebrated, focus turned towards Madison Square Garden where Anthony Joshua was expected to make light work of Andy Ruiz Jr, a replacement for Jarrell Miller following a failed drugs test.

The heavyweight title match did not go to script, however, as Ruiz floored Joshua four times and forced a stoppage to claim his belts, albeit only until the rematch where the Briton saved face.

JULY 14, 2019

These crazy spectacles have largely seen sport spread throughout the day, but three sets of eyes were required to keep up with the action on an epic afternoon last July.

With England hosting and then reaching the Cricket World Cup final, the scene-stealing decider fell on the same day as the Wimbledon men's final and the British Grand Prix, ensuring the United Kingdom was the focus of the sporting world.

The cricket started off several hours before either the tennis or the F1 but still managed to outlast its rival events, with Ben Stokes determined to put on a show as England won via a dramatic Super Over at the end of a nine-hour saga against New Zealand.

Novak Djokovic was battling Stokes for attention as he was taken all the way by that man Federer at the All England Club before finally prevailing 7-6 (7-5) 1-6 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 13-12 (7-3) in the tournament's longest singles final.

The respective classics made the British GP, completed earlier in the day, something of an afterthought - but not for Lewis Hamilton, who claimed a record sixth victory.

Saracens have signed Wales scrum-half Aled Davies on a three-year deal.

Davies' international career appears to be over after he opted to leave the Ospreys to join the European and Premiership champions.

The 27-year-old playmaker will not be able play for his country due to the 60-cap eligibility rule and is instead heading for the Championship after Sarries were consigned to relegation due to salary-cap breaches.

Davies said: "It's a great opportunity for me at a massive club. It's a massive honour to come here and I can't wait to get started.

"It seems like there is a good team and family ethos around the club which is very attractive for me and my family.

"I'm looking forward to putting my stamp on things and making an impact, hopefully."

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said: "Aled is an experienced, talented player and we are delighted to welcome both him and his family to Saracens.

"He is driven to take his game to new levels and we are excited he has chosen to do that at Saracens."

Davies has won 20 caps for Wales, with his last appearance coming against Uruguay in the Rugby World Cup last October.

Wales international Jonah Holmes has joined the Dragons on a long-term deal after he was released from the last year of his Leicester Tigers contract.

Holmes, who can operate on the wing or at full-back, scored 24 tries in three seasons with Premiership side Leicester.

The 27-year-old has been capped three times by Wales, and Dragons director of rugby Dean Ryan hopes the region can help him become an established Test player.

Ryan said: "Jonah is a top-class international who is excited to make the move to Wales and join Dragons.

"Jonah has big ambitions, in both the domestic and international arena, and we are pleased that he believes that Dragons is the right fit for him to be able to achieve those goals."

Holmes is relishing a new challenge in the Pro 14.

He said: "I'm pleased to finalise the move and can't wait to get started in a new competition and link up with my team-mates.

"I've spoken at length to Dean, know the ambition for the future and have seen the squad that is being built. I'm excited by the challenge ahead.

"My focus is now totally on Dragons, getting integrated into the squad as soon as possible and trying to get my name on that first team sheet."

Clubs from English rugby's Premiership have been told they cannot start training for at least two weeks, dealing a blow to hopes of a resumption in July.

Last month it was suggested Premiership clubs were working towards a best-case scenario of the league returning on the weekend of July 3-5 and playing midweek games with the hopes of an August 15 final.

However, Leicester Tigers head coach Geordan Murphy – who will step up to director of rugby in July – suggested teams will first need eight weeks to train.

With the Professional Game Board (PGB) agreeing more time is needed before sessions can safely begin, it appears August is the earliest the season can continue.

Chris Booy, chair of the PGB, said: "A meeting of the Professional Game Board was held which incorporates representatives of the Rugby Football Union, Premiership Rugby, Rugby Players Association and Championship clubs.

"The group agreed that, although a huge amount of work is being undertaken to enable a safe return to training for Premiership clubs, more time was needed to ensure that players, staff and officials can return to a safe training environment, and that is not expected to be in place for a minimum of two weeks.

"Safety and welfare remains of paramount importance to all of us in the rugby community, and we look forward to the season resuming when it is safe to do so.

"Further updates on progress will be made in due course."

Gloucester have announced head coach Johan Ackermann is leaving the Premiership club to take up a job in Japan.

The South African was in his third season in charge at Kingsholm; he led them to the European Challenge Cup final in his first year, followed by successive campaigns in the Champions Cup.

However, he will not be at the helm if the 2019-20 season - currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic - is to be completed.

Ackermann is moving on to NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes, though admitted he will "cherish the memories" made during his stint with the Cherry and Whites.

"Being head coach of Gloucester has been a tremendous privilege for me, and I have loved every minute of it," Ackermann said in a statement from Gloucester. 

"Working with such a fantastic group of players and coaches has been a great experience.

"I would especially like to thank [Gloucester chairman] Martin [St Quinton] for the faith that he has shown in me. His support and friendship have meant a lot to me.

"Gloucester rugby fans are a truly unique group, and I will always cherish the memories I have of being at Kingsholm. I wish the club nothing but the best."

European rugby organisers are holding discussions over a revised structure for the 2020-21 season, while also outlining plans to complete the current campaign.

The Champions Cup and Challenge Cup schedules had to be halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, with no imminent return to action on the cards.

However, European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) is making "every effort" to make sure the knockout stages do eventually take place, subject to working within health guidelines and under consideration for the welfare of players.

A statement from the governing body revealed the hope is for the 2020 finals to take place on October 16 and 17.

As for next season, a possible change to the Champions Cup could see the competition grow from 20 to 24 teams, meaning eight each from the Pro14, English Premiership and Top 14 competitions.

Fixtures would be held over eight weekends instead of nine, though a new format will only apply on an "exceptional basis", according to a statement from EPCR.

"Ongoing discussions with EPCR's league and union shareholders regarding new formats have included the possibility of a 24-club Heineken Champions Cup with eight representatives from each of Europe's leading league competitions, played over eight weekends", the statement read.

"If adopted, any new format would apply to next season's tournament only on an exceptional basis.

"In the meantime, EPCR remains committed to making every effort to conclude the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup season subject to official advice and with the health and welfare of players, club staff, match officials, supporters and the wider rugby community in mind.

"It is hoped that the 2020 finals could be staged on 16 and 17 October."

This season's Top 14 season was abandoned after the French government ruled there would be no sporting events staged until the beginning of September.

The Stade Velodrome in Marseille was due to host both European club rugby finals in May.

An independent review into Premiership Rugby's salary cap has suggested clubs found guilty of future breaches should be stripped of titles.

Saracens have won each of the past two Premiership Finals but last year they were found to have breached the salary cap for three successive seasons.

The club were docked points, fined £5.36million and later automatically relegated from the top flight, yet their championship successes in 2018 and 2019 have not been stricken from the record.

A review led by former government minister Lord Myners and commissioned by Premiership Rugby has recommended that punishments should be even more severe in the future.

In his report, Lord Myners outlined the need for: "Greater flexibility for a disciplinary panel in relation to the range, and severity, of sanctions to ensure 'the punishment fits the crime', including the availability of sanctions such as suspensions and the removal of titles."

Lord Myners said: "It is my view that a broader array of sanctions should be available in relation to breaches of the senior ceiling and failure to co-operate.

"These sanctions, especially my proposed range of sporting sanctions, should help other clubs as well as the public at large to feel that justice is both done and seen to be done."

In response to the report, Darren Childs, Premiership Rugby's chief executive, said: "We welcome the comprehensive set of recommendations put forward by Lord Myners following the review and we are pleased to publish his report so that everyone has an opportunity to consider his conclusions.

"In the next stage of this process, we will consult carefully with our clubs and other stakeholders as we finalise the new salary cap regulations for the long-term benefit of our sport."

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has warned there is still "significant work to do" before elite teams can begin training again, despite new government advice.

This week has seen an easing of lockdown measures in the United Kindgom, and particularly in England, with fresh hope that sport will soon return even as the coronavirus pandemic continues to pose huge challenges. 

Government guidelines now permit professional sports teams to start training again, albeit with social distancing measures in place.

However, the RFU conceded much still had to be done in order to facilitate a resumption of training.

"The announcement ... that elite sports can restart is welcome and enables us to consider plans for a return to individual training with social distancing in selected performance training facilities across Premiership Rugby,"  the RFU said in a statement on Wednesday.

"While much has been done in recent weeks to establish protocols around a safe return to training and ultimately competition, there is still significant work to do and discussions to be had with players and staff before any form of training can resume. Their welfare will be at the heart of our decisions. 

"This announcement relates only to the restarting of individual training with social distancing in Premiership Rugby. 

"The RFU will continue to work with government and other sporting bodies to provide guidance on return to training in the community game, Greene King IPA Championship, Rugby Sevens and Tyrrells Premier 15s ahead of next season. We will continue to keep everyone informed when RFU guidance is issued."

Safeguards including the deep cleaning of facilities and the screening of players and staff for COVID-19 symptoms will need to be implemented, the RFU added. 

The UK government has announced that professional sport will not be staged in England until June 1 at the earliest.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday announced a "roadmap" outlining how lockdown restrictions may be eased, but there was no mention of a potential return of professional sport.

The government released a lengthy document on Monday, which outlined that action may resume from the start of next month as part of step two of lifting restrictions.

It states that one of the changes from June 1 could be "permitting cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed-doors for broadcast, while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact."

The government also stated reopening venues such as sports stadia that attract large crowds "may only be fully possible significantly later depending on the reduction in numbers of infections", so it could be a long time before spectators are allowed in.

Premier League clubs were meeting on Monday to continue talks over 'Project Restart', with the season having been suspended since March 13 due to the COVID-19 crisis.

This has been billed as a crucial week for English football, with doubts lingering over whether top flight and Football League action can resume.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) last month announced that there will be no professional cricket played in the UK until July 1, with The Hundred put back until next year.

July is the target for a resumption of the Premiership rugby union season, but no dates have been confirmed.

Further developments were that those not on a shortlist of exemptions must self-isolate in their accommodation for fourteen days on arrival into the UK.

England defence coach John Mitchell expects Saracens duo Maro Itoje and Mako Vunipola to make "good decisions" over their futures.

Itoje has been linked with a loan move to Racing 92 and there are no certainties over which club his England team-mate Vunipola will play for next season after Sarries were relegated from the Premiership for breaching salary-cap regulations.

England head coach Eddie Jones is unable to select players based overseas, but Mitchell is confident Itoje and Vunipola will still be available for selection.

The New Zealander said: "I'm sure Eddie, as he is very good at, is guiding them and helping them and they have probably sought his advice.

"They've got family and friends and people within Saracens who they trust. 

"I'm quite confident that they will make good decisions, that are right for them and their families and also that are right in terms of playing Test rugby for England because they are two guys who love playing for England."

Mitchell knows the coaching staff and players must be ready to adapt their methods when rugby union returns after being suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The RFU and our medics are working very closely with the government and it’s important I leave it with them," he added.

"No one knows what the pecking order will be. I guess it's just sensible that non-contact sports will be the creators of the start, I guess, and we'll learn from what we experience and what they go through. When we eventually get the green button then we as a coaching group will need to be ready.

"We're going to have to be creative and innovative around how we do things. A lot of our players are going to be better for this as well because they've had to find a way to train with home constraints.

"We are going to have to find different ways to train based on the distancing."

Saracens have apologised after a group of players including England international Billy Vunipola were pictured breaching social-distancing measures.

Photographs emerged on Thursday of Vunipola, Alex Goode, Nick Isiekwe, Sean Maitland and Josh Ibuanokpe meeting in a close huddle in St Albans.

The United Kingdom government has urged the public to remain at least two metres apart to slow the spread of coronavirus.

A widely reported Sarries statement read: "The club was very disappointed to learn about a small group of Saracens players being sighted together in St Albans.

"The government guidelines on social distancing and public gatherings of more than two people are very clear, and the club has been vigorous in its messaging to all players and staff members about the importance of adhering to these guidelines whilst in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Management has spoken to the players involved, all of whom accept they made an error of judgment and have apologised for any upset they may have caused.

"The club has reminded these players as well as the whole Saracens squad of their responsibilities to themselves and the community around them, and we are confident this will not happen again."

Vunipola was last year formally warned by the club after defending Israel Folau's controversial social media posts that led to the termination of his Rugby Australia contract.

The Premiership season has been paused amid the COVID-19 crisis, but Sarries had already been relegated due to a points deduction.

The reigning Premiership champions and European Champions Cup holders were punished for salary-cap breaches.

Page 1 of 9
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.