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."

The Premiership has been suspended for five weeks and the quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Premiership Rugby's decision followed new guidance from the United Kingdom government on Monday.

British prime minister Boris Johnson encouraged people to avoid mass gatherings and all "non-essential" travel and contact with others.

"The safety of our fans, players and staff is our first priority, and we would like to wish all of those who are affected our heartfelt best wishes and a very speedy recovery," a Premiership Rugby statement read.

"We'll continue to work closely with DCMS [the Departure for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] and Public Health England, and to follow the advice of medical experts, and work with our clubs to help them to support their own wider communities at this time."

The decision to call off the European rugby season was taken during a conference call on Monday.

It means the matches in the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup scheduled for April 3, 4 and 5 will not now go ahead as planned, although organisers hope to rearrange the fixtures for later dates.

In a statement, the board of European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) said: "While respecting all further directives by governments and local authorities, EPCR, in conjunction with the relevant leagues and unions, remains committed to trying to find a solution which will enable it to complete the 2019-20 Champions Cup and Challenge Cup tournaments at such a time as that aligns with preventative measures undertaken by an overwhelming majority of sport's governing bodies and tournament organisers in Europe.  

"EPCR's priority is the health and welfare of players and club staff, and an update regarding the knockout stages of the tournaments will be communicated to all stakeholders as soon as practicable."

Luke Morahan scored two tries as Bristol Bears made it five straight wins in the Premiership by overcoming Harlequins 28-15 at Ashton Gate.

Quins shocked leaders Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Gate last weekend but found themselves behind in the opening minute on Sunday when Morahan stormed clear on the right.

Aaron Morris reduced the arrears but Morahan touched down for the second time and Chris Vui went over to help establish a 25-8 lead at the break.

Marcus Smith converted Gabriel Ibitoye's 72nd-minute score but Quins were unable to make a late charge for victory, with Alex Dombrandt seeing a try ruled out for a forward pass in the build-up.

In-form Bristol Bears moved up to third in the Premiership with a 19-13 West Country derby win at Bath and Wasps ended London Irish's winning run on Sunday.

Bath and Bristol started the showdown at a packed Rec on the back of three consecutive victories, but it was Pat Lam's side who remained on a roll to move above Northampton Saints.

Chris Vui reached out to score the opening try just five minutes in and Callum Sheedy produced a moment of magic to set up a second Bristol five-pointer, picking out Alapati Leiua with a pinpoint cross-field kick after creating space with a clever show-and-go.

A second Rhys Priestland penalty just before half-time reduced the deficit to six points, but Harry Randall's try gave Bristol breathing space - Sheedy converting for a second time.

Priestland fed Will Chudley for Bath's only try 15 minutes from time soon after he replaced debutant Rhys Webb, but Bristol hung on to keep their rivals below them in fifth spot and complete a double after hammering them on the opening day.

Wasps are up to sixth after beating the Exiles 36-26 at the Madejski Stadium.

Irish had won three in a row, but Jacob Umaga was among five Wasps try-scorers in an entertaining victory on the road.

Tom Hendrickson grabbed two tries as rampant Exeter beat Northampton 57-7 to pull eight points clear at the top of the Premiership.

Northampton arrived at Sandy Park with their hopes of being involved in a battle for first place possibly hinging on the outcome, and the thumping nature of their defeat was painful for Saints.

Hosts Exeter could not breach the try-line in the opening half-hour, having just a penalty from Joe Simmonds to show for their initial endeavours.

Jonny Hill, Elvis Taione and Jannes Kirsten then crossed in quick succession to put the Chiefs in charge by the break, building a 22-0 lead after taking advantage of a yellow card for Tom Collins.

Hendrickson went over twice in the second half, with Ben Moon, Tom O'Flaherty and Sam Simmonds taking the home side's try count to eight.

James Grayson dotted down a consolation for Northampton, who now sit fourth, nine points adrift of Exeter, with their points difference having taken a battering.

Bristol jumped above Northampton into third place after a 13-10 home win over Worcester.

Eight points from the boot of Callum Sheedy and a Luke Morahan try gave the Bears their narrow win.

Nick David's try early in the second half for Warriors, converted by Duncan Weir, and a penalty from Scott van Breda kept it tight.

However, Sheedy's second penalty of the game in the 69th minute proved to be the match-winner, leaving Worcester down in 10th place.

Bristol Bears scored two tries in as many minutes to come from behind and defeat Northampton Saints 20-14 at Franklin's Gardens on Sunday.

Northampton's second-half collapse meant they had to settle for a losing bonus point that left them four adrift of Premiership leaders Exeter Chiefs, while Bristol moved up to fourth.

Rory Hutchinson sent the ball out to the right for Saints full-back Harry Mallinder to dive over in the corner eight minutes into his return from 15 months out with a knee injury.

James Grayson failed to add the extras but had a trio of penalties by the 43rd minute, the first of which came after Harry Randall was on the receiving end of a huge hit of Cobus Reinach and failed to release the ball.

Hutchinson was shown a yellow card for a high tackle on Joe Joyce and Callum Sheedy got Bristol on the board from the resulting penalty in the 50th minute.

Replacement wing Henry Purdy touched down after Piers O'Conor surged through a gap in the defence after the hour mark and Bristol were soon ahead.

Some excellent work from Sheedy preceded Lewis Thiede touching down from close range in the 63rd minute, with Ian Madigan slotting through a penalty after the buzzer.

Sale Sharks survived a second-half fightback from Exeter Chiefs to secure a hard-earned 22-19 victory over the Premiership leaders.

Having headed into Saturday's encounter on the south coast without a defeat in all competitions since November, Exeter found themselves trailing 22-5 at the interval after a blistering first-half display from the visitors.

With Tom O'Flaherty sent to the sin bin early on Exeter, Sale ran in three tries in the first half – Chris Ashton, Daniel du Preez and Byron McGuigan getting on the scoresheet.

Rob du Preez added a further seven points, though Phil Dollman's try had handed the Chiefs some hope and Exeter gained 14 points in the space of seven minutes to set up a grandstand finale.

But Sale held firm, clinching a victory that lifted them into third, four points behind Exeter.

Elsewhere, Wasps ran in three tries in the second half to come from behind and edge out Worcester Warriors 30-26, with Dan Robson's late try proving decisive in a bonus-point win.

Wasps are eighth, level on points with the Warriors and three shy of Bath, who just got the better of Leicester Tigers – Tom Homer's double ultimately securing a 13-10 victory.

Meanwhile, Bristol Bears snapped a three-match losing streak with a convincing 34-16 triumph over west country rivals Gloucester, who slipped into fourth.

Callum Sheedy kicked 19 of the Bears' points, converting five penalties in the first half, with Bristol going over three times after the break.

Relegation-threatened Saracens bounced back from a defeat to Premiership leaders Exeter Chiefs with a 62-5 thrashing of Worcester Warriors, while there were also wins for Leicester Tigers and Gloucester on Saturday.

Champions Sarries have now collected more points this season than Exeter, but a 35-point deduction for breaching salary-cap regulations means they remain bottom of the pile and in the red.

However, the beleaguered the London club are making swift progress in their survival bid and scored 10 tries in rout of Worcester at Allianz Park in a week that saw Nigel Wray resign as chairman.

It was one-way traffic from the outset as Ben Earl opened the scoring after six minutes, with the first of Rotimi Segun's first-half double quickly following.

Brad Barritt and Mako Vunipola also went over before the break, and Sarries matched their haul from the first 40 minutes in the second period.

Richard Barrington, Maro Itoje, Duncan Taylor, Jackson Wray and, finally, in the 81st minute, Elliot Daly got on the scoresheet, with Owen Farrell nailing six conversion attempts.

There was a derby win for Gloucester as they put on a late show to beat Bath 29-15 at Kingsholm.

Rhys Priestland's five penalties had visitors Bath in front until just before the hour-mark, but tries from Gerbrandt Grobler and Ruan Ackermann in quick succession set up an ultimately comfortable victory.

Leicester got a much-needed win as they saw off Bristol Bears 31-18, led by England pair George Ford and Jonny May.

Tigers are only kept off the bottom of the table by Sarries, but a strong start set up a precious second victory of the season in the early kick-off.

Bristol-born Ellis Genge England prop went over with just three minutes played, and May and Ford crossed later in a first half that saw two Bears men sent to the sin bin.

Although Bristol battled back early in the second period, May had his second try with six minutes remaining, while Ford dispatched all four conversions and a penalty to leave Leicester 18 points better off than European Champions Sarries.

A late try from Nizaam Carr saw Wasps edge Bristol 26-21 in the Premiership on Friday.

Carr crashed over down the right in the final minutes at Ashton Gate as Wasps ended a three-game losing run and claimed their second win of the season.

It took until the second half for the game to come to life after Bristol, who were aiming to go top of the table, led 3-0 at the interval.

Wasps looked on track when they led 19-13 with less than 20 minutes remaining, but a Harry Thacker try and Callum Sheedy's 76th-minute penalty had Bristol back in front.

But Carr scored the match-winner for Wasps and Jacob Umaga, who finished with 11 points, added the conversion.

Wasps are 10th in the table after two wins from seven games this season, while the Bears are third, two points behind leaders Exeter Chiefs.

Saracens made it five Premiership victories on the bounce as they shrugged off conceding an early try to defeat Bristol Bears 47-13.

The defending champions – who still sit bottom thanks to their 35-point deduction for breaching salary cap rules – fell behind to Luke Morahan's ninth-minute try on Saturday.

But Saracens responded quickly through Mako Vunipola and swiftly wrested control thanks to Max Malins' try.

Malins helped himself to another after the restart, with Nick Tompkins also at the double as the home side went over five times in the second half.

However, Sarries are still 17 points behind Leicester Tigers, whose second-half capitulation at Welford Road enabled Exeter Chiefs to go top.

Exeter were 22-14 down at half-time, yet rallied after the interval to score 17 unanswered points and capitalise on Northampton Saints' 22-10 defeat at Sale Sharks.

Chris Ashton, Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Akker van der Merwe went over for Sale as the Sharks moved into the top four.

Meanwhile, Wasps suffered a third successive Premiership loss as they went down 28-22 at home to Harlequins, who held on for a bonus-point win despite having Joe Marler sin-binned late on.

Wasps took the lead at the Ricoh Arena, though Harlequins dominated for 40 minutes up to the hour mark, running in four tries without reply.

Thomas Young's effort eventually pulled the hosts back into contention, but the TMO denied them a late try and they were left with a losing bonus point as consolation.

Bristol Bears had to settle for a 27-27 draw against 14-man London Irish following a frenetic finish at Ashton Gate.

The Bears had ended the previous round of fixtures top of the Premiership pile, but results went against them on Saturday as Northampton Saints reached the summit with a bonus-point success.

And Bristol's hopes of climbing back above Northampton were hindered by a dogged Irish display the following day, the promoted outfit playing for 40 minutes a man down.

The home side struggled to get going early on and trailed 7-3 at the break after Ben Meehan's try, although they were boosted by a red card for Ollie Hoskins as his shoulder made contact with Chris Vui's head.

Nathan Hughes and Charles Piutau crossed following the restart and the Bears appeared to be in control.

However, Waisake Naholo intercepted to race through and score for Irish, kickstarting a frantic spell.

Ed Holmes scored in style for Bristol, then John Afoa was sent to the sin bin and Tom Parton had Irish back in front again, only for Harry Thacker to cross three minutes from time.

Stephen Myler dispatched a last-gasp Irish penalty and there was no time for the Bears to rally once more, able only to climb to second.

Sunday's other fixture was a similarly tight affair, but Harlequins got the better of Gloucester 23-19.

Ross Chisholm and Alex Dombrandt went over for Harlequins, with an Ollie Thorley double and Ben Morgan's try coming in response. 

Marcus Smith's third penalty with the final play of the game made the points safe.

Bristol Bears pulled off a stunning fightback to beat Exeter Chiefs 20-17 and go top of the Premiership, while Waisake Naholo scored a debut try in London Irish's thrashing of bottom side Leicester Tigers on Sunday.

The Chiefs looked to be cruising to victory when they scored 17 unanswered points in the first half of a Sandy Park thriller.

Bristol had other ideas and snatched an unlikely win right at the end when Dan Thomas crashed over with Exeter unable to stop a driving maul.

Tries from Sam Simmonds and Nic White along with seven points from the boot of Joe Simmonds put Exeter in command at the interval, but Bristol scored 17 points in the last 20 minutes to stun Rob Baxter's side.

Callum Sheedy was on target with two penalties and Piers O'Conor dotted down with White in the sin bin before Thomas was awarded a decisive score following consultation with the TMO.

Sheedy added the extras as Bristol moved level with Northampton Saints on 14 points and replaced them at the summit.

Former New Zealand wing Naholo, one of a host of high-profile signings for the Exiles following their promotion from the Championship, was among five try-scorers in a bonus-point victory at the Madejski Stadium.

Nick Phipps picked out fellow debutant Naholo with a brilliant cross-field kick and the powerful flyer finished clinically, while Ruan Botha was another new recruit to touch down to keep the Tigers at the foot of the table.

Premiership leaders Northampton Saints made it three wins from three at the start of the new campaign with a convincing 40-22 victory over Harlequins on Friday.

Though they fell behind early on, Northampton responded in force with four tries in the opening 36 minutes, Taqele Naiyaravoro helping himself to a double.

Caden Murley went over for Harlequins' first try on the stroke of half-time, with Chris Robshaw then dragging the visitors back into contention following the restart.

James Grayson's kicking steadied the ship for the Saints, however, paving the way for Teimana Harrison to ensure the win with his second try of a high-scoring contest.

Northampton lead the way on 14 points, four ahead of Bristol Bears, who bounced back from their defeat to Quins last time out by dispatching Sale Sharks 16-10.

Three Callum Sheedy penalties put Bristol 9-0 up by the interval, and despite Chris Vui's yellow card reducing the hosts to 14, Ioan Lloyd went over for the first try to further their advantage.

It was a lead which proved unassailable for fourth-place Sale, despite Cameron Neild's late score. Still, his intercept try did secure the Sharks a losing bonus point from their long trip.

Last season's Premiership semi-finalists Northampton Saints and Gloucester continued strong starts to the new campaign with wins on Saturday.

Northampton claimed an impressive victory over champions Saracens last time out but had to wait until the second half against Worcester Warriors this week to move clear and claim a 35-16 bonus-point success.

Saints were 9-6 down at half-time and went over five times in the second period to triumph, with George Furbank crossing twice.

At Gloucester, on the day England beat the All Blacks to reach the Rugby World Cup final, Joe Simpson, a one-cap Red Rose international, and Tom Marshall, a New Zealander, were each at the double for the hosts.

The duo each crossed in both halves as Gloucester cruised to a 25-9 victory over Wasps, who had Malakai Fekitoa sent to the sin bin early in the second period.

Simpson was facing former club Wasps for the first time since his move at the start of this season.

Gloucester and Northampton sit level on nine points at the top of the Premiership as the only undefeated sides after two games.

London Irish, who won at Wasps on their return to the top flight last week, were given a reality check in going down 41-7 at home to Sale Sharks.

There were six tries for visitors Sale, as Akker van der Merwe, Denny Solomona, Marland Yarde, Josh Beaumont, Robert du Preez and Rohan Janse van Rensburg making hay.

Bristol Bears also failed to follow up an opening victory, with Harlequins getting their first win of the campaign 22-17.

England centre Joe Marchant crossed for Quins' only try, as Marcus Smith crucially kicked 17 points.

Luke Morahan grabbed a double and new signing Nathan Hughes also crossed as Bristol Bears started the Premiership season with a 43-16 derby drubbing of Bath.

Ambitious Bristol marked their return to the top flight with a win over Bath last season and Pat Lam's side turned it on for a sell-out crowd at Ashton Gate on Friday.

Utility-back Morahan set the ball rolling with an early try following a powerful run from Hughes, who marked his league debut following his move from Wasps by going under the posts 11 minutes in.

Mat Protheroe touched down on the stroke of half-time to put Bristol 17-13 up after a Zach Mercer try and eight points from the boot of Rhys Priestland gave Bath a slender lead.

Bristol dominated the second half to run away with it, Piers O'Conor, John Afoa and teenage debutant Ioan Lloyd going over before Morahan claimed his second of the match.

Hughes was also involved in that final score as he set about trying to prove a point to Eddie Jones after being left out of England's Rugby World Cup squad.

A third penalty of the match for Priestland was Bath's only score of the second half of their first Premiership match under new director of rugby Stuart Hooper.

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