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."

Sale Sharks ran in six tries as they thrashed London Irish 39-0 to edge ahead of Exeter Chiefs at the top of the Premiership.

Sam James grabbed a double, scoring in each half, while Luke James, Rob Webber, Denny Solomona and Byron McGuigan piled on the five-pointers for Steve Diamond's team.

Webber's try came on his 100th appearance for the Sharks.

McGuigan dotted down a fine try at the death to put the seal on a highly successful outing for the home side, who climbed ahead of Exeter on points difference but have played an extra game.

Exeter will have the chance to re-establish themselves as front-runners when they host Bath on Saturday. London Irish remain eighth in the table.

Northampton Saints halted a four-match losing skid as they won 16-10 on the road against Worcester Warriors.

Mikey Haywood's 32nd-minute try and 11 points from the boot of James Grayson gave Northampton a welcome victory, with Ollie Lawrence notching a converted score for the hosts.

Northampton's win nudged them ahead of Bristol Bears and up to third in the table, five points behind the top two, while Worcester stay 10th, just ahead of second-bottom Leicester Tigers.

Northampton Saints' two-time Rugby World Cup winner Ben Franks will retire at the end of the season.

The Premiership high-flyers revealed on Tuesday that the 35-year-old prop will end his illustrious career at the conclusion of the campaign.

Franks, who was joined by his brother Owen at Franklin's Gardens last year, played 47 times for New Zealand and lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in 2011 and 2015.

He joined Northampton from London Irish in 2018 and has played 37 times for the Saints.

"I am proud to be a Saint and very grateful to have had the opportunity to finish my playing days here in Northampton," said Franks. "But the end of this season is the right time for me call time on my career.

"I've loved my journey in rugby; from playing back home in New Zealand, to representing the All Blacks alongside my brother, and then coming over here to experience the challenge of the English Premiership.

"I've also really enjoyed having the chance to run out with Owen again here at Franklin's Gardens, and I'll of course be following the club's progress in the coming years as he continues to play on in Northampton."

Franks made 130 Super Rugby appearances for the Crusaders and the Hurricanes before moving to England, winning the title in 2006 and 2008 with the Christchurch-based franchise.

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.

Dave Porecki's last-gasp try prevented 14-man Northampton Saints from going top of the Premiership as London Irish secured a thrilling 20-16 win at Franklin's Gardens.

The visitors were 16-8 down heading into the final eight minutes but tries from Franco van der Merwe and Porecki got the job done for Irish after Api Ratuniyarawa had seen red.

Ollie Hassell-Collins' early try gave the underdogs the lead, but the Saints – who lost England centre Piers Francis to injury in the first half – led at the break after Cobus Reinach dotted down and James Grayson added eight points with the boot.

Ratuniyarawa's second-half dismissal for a high clearance at a ruck proved pivotal, even if another Grayson penalty did initially give Northampton further breathing space. 

Having seen Reinbach, who confirmed this month he would leave Saints at the end of the season, make a stunning try-saving tackle, the hosts' resolve was broken when Van der Merwe pierced the line.

Irish continued to press and got their reward at the death, Porecki pouncing to earn their first win since November after an attempted clearance was charged down. 

Ulster secured a European Champions Cup quarter-final spot with a 22-15 defeat of Bath, while Northampton Saints and Glasgow Warriors stayed in the hunt for qualification on Saturday.

Clermont Auvergne sealed top spot in Pool 3 with a 26-19 victory at Harlequins, but Ulster knew a defeat of Bath would see them through as one of three best-placed runners-up.

The Pro14 side got the job done in the second half after the two sides were level at 7-7 at the break, Robert Baloucoune and Will Addison going over to add to a first-half try from Marcell Coetzee before Billy Burns was on target with a penalty.

Tries from Ruaridh McConnochie and Ross Batty, who was later red-carded for a no-arms tackle on John Cooney, were not enough for Bath to end the competition on a high note.

Northampton did all they could to advance as runners-up with a 36-24 victory at Top 14 high-flyers Lyon in Pool 1.

The Saints will go progress if either Saracens or Gloucester fail to pick up maximum points wins on Sunday after Mike Haywood, Teimana Harrison, Cobus Reinach, George Furbank and James Fish touched down in a bonus-point triumph at Matmut Stade de Gerland.

Glasgow must hope defending champions Sarries, whose relegation from the Premiership at the of the season for persistent salary-cap breaches was announced on Saturday, and Gloucester slip up after demolishing Sale Sharks 45-7 in Pool 2.

Leone Nakarawa set the tone early on with one of six Glasgow tries at the AJ Bell Stadium, where Adam Hastings scored 15 points from the tee.

Leinster made it six victories out of six in Pool 1 with an 18-0 defeat of Benetton Treviso, while Sam Simmonds grabbed a double as Pool 2 winners Exeter Chiefs saw off La Rochelle 33-14 at Sandy Park.

Beleaguered Sarries host Racing 92 on the final day of pool matches reeling from the announcement that they will drop of out of the Premiership, while Gloucester travel to Toulouse.

South Africa scrum-half Cobus Reinach will leave Northampton Saints at the end of the season.

The 29-year-old pivot has been a revelation since arriving at Franklin's Gardens from Super Rugby franchise the Sharks in 2017. 

Reinach, a World Cup winner with the Springboks last year, has decided to move on after three campaigns with Northampton and is reportedly set to join Montpellier.

The pacy playmaker said: "I love playing for Saints and living in Northamptonshire. We have a fantastic group of coaches and staff, and an exciting squad that I believe can challenge for the major honours, so this has not been an easy decision for me to make. 

"I'd like to thank everyone for making the last three seasons so memorable; I'll be sad to leave some great friends and team-mates. 

"Saints will always have a special place in my heart and I look forward to giving everything I've got to make sure we finish the season with some silverware."

Chris Boyd, Saints' director of rugby, said: "While we're disappointed to lose a player of Cobus' quality, we respect that in the final years of his professional career he’s made a decision with the long-term future of his family in mind.

"Saints supporters love watching him play; he has provided them with plenty of memorable moments here at Franklin's Gardens. 

"I've been delighted with the form of Henry Taylor since his arrival at the start of the season, and with the emergence of Connor Tupai from our Academy set-up this year – plus getting Alex Mitchell back from injury in the coming weeks will feel like a new signing for us.

"Cobus is putting all his focus and energy into ensuring that Northampton have as much success as possible for the second half of the season, and we will wish him well after that."

Saints sit second in the Premiership table having won six of their first eight games. 

Leinster maintained their 100 per cent European Champions Cup record with a 42-14 thrashing of Lyon, while Racing 92 left it late to beat Munster and reach the quarter-finals on Sunday.

Last year's runners-up Leinster cemented their spot at the top of Pool 1 with a bonus-point triumph on a day which saw second-placed Northampton Saints produce a comeback to beat Benetton Treviso.

Leinster struggled to shake off Lyon in the first half and only led by seven points at the break, but the Pro14 champions scored 21 points without reply in the second half at the RDS Arena.

Dave Kearney touched down twice, with Josh van der Flier, Max Deegan, Sean Cronin and Andrew Porter getting in on the act in a six-try hammering from Leo Cullen's men.

Leinster have now won nine consecutive pool games for the first time in the competition.

Saints made far harder work of a vital 33-20 bonus-point victory over Treviso, the Premiership side having fallen 17-12 behind heading into the final 25 minutes.

The returning Harry Mallinder, back after more than a year out with a knee injury, got the home side up and running with a try inside five minutes.

However, the rest of the first half belonged to the Italians, who were ahead courtesy of Tommaso Benvenuti's smart score following an interception.

Needing a win to keep their visitors at bay in the race for second spot, Northampton finally sprung to life after the interval as Henry Taylor, Francois van Wyk, Fraser Dingwall and Andy Symons all crossed.

Teddy Iribaren's inventive long-range pass to set up a try for Teddy Thomas was an eye-catching highlight from Racing's dramatic 39-22 Pool 4 home win against Munster.

A second try for recalled France wing Thomas late on was followed by scores from the brilliant Virimi Vakatawa and Juan Imhoff, seeing Racing through and putting Munster down to third with a decisive clash against Saracens to come in the final round of pool matches.

Exeter Chiefs and Northampton Saints continue to set the pace in the Premiership after the top two in the table both won on Sunday.

Leaders Exeter were coasting to victory away at London Irish when they led 28-7 at the break, four first-half tries securing them a bonus point inside 40 minutes.

Sam Hill touched down for the second time in the game early in the second half to extend the advantage, yet London Irish refused to go away.

The Chiefs had both Olly Woodburn and Ollie Devoto sin-binned, forcing them to play seven minutes with only 13 men, as the Exiles cut the gap to 14 points when Steve Mafi grabbed their fourth try.

Yet Gareth Steenson kicked a 67th-minute penalty following on from his six successful conversion attempts, as Exeter triumphed 45-28.

There were plenty of points – plus a red card – as Northampton prevailed 35-31 at the Ricoh Arena thanks to a late try from Taqele Naiyaravoro.

The visitors were without Tom Collins, dismissed for serious foul play, and the sin-binned Cobus Reinach when they scored in the 78th minute, replacement Naiyaravoro barging his way to the line.

They had led 28-10 early in the second half when Reinach crossed for the second time, yet Wasps hit back with 21 unanswered points, a scoring spree that seemingly put them on course to triumph over 13 men.

However, Northampton overcame their numerical disadvantage to snatch the win, meaning they remain a point behind Exeter.

Leinster maintained their phenomenal 100 per cent Pro14 record by grinding out a 13-6 derby victory at Munster and Edinburgh beat Glasgow Warriors on Saturday.

The defending champions put on a defensive masterclass at Thomond Park to make it nine wins from nine in the competition.

Leinster held off a bright start from Munster to score through Ed Byrne from their first real attack of note.

Ross Byrne added the extras and split the posts again to make it 10-0 after 22 minutes, with JJ Hanrahan getting Munster on the board shortly before the break.

Hanrahan nailed another penalty early in the second half, but for all their endeavour, Munster could not find a way through a stoic Leinster defence.

Edinburgh - second in Conference B - overcame Glasgow 29-19 to keep alive their hopes of winning the 1872 Cup – contested annually between the Scottish rivals – for a third straight year, having lost to the same opponents a week ago.

Darcy Graham scored twice for Edinburgh, who were twice behind after the break due to tries from Scott Cummings and George Horne.

Benetton Treviso made it two wins over Italian rivals Zebre in the space of a week, hooker Hame Faiva scored a hat-trick in a 36-25 win despite the early sending off of Juan Ignacio Brex.

Louis Rees-Zammit scored a first Gloucester hat-trick but Northampton Saints ran out 33-26 winners in a seven-try thriller that sees them return to the top of the Premiership table.

In a match of high quality at Franklin's Gardens, it was fledging Welsh winger Rees-Zammit – who has five tries over his past two matches – who touched down first, racing free after picking up Mark Atkinson's grubber kick.

Saints took control through scores from Mike Haywood and Cobus Reinach and the respective boots of Dan Biggar and Piers Francis, before Chris Harris's converted try reduced the arrears.

Reinach's second, after a loose pass from Danny Cipriani, left Gloucester with an uphill task but Freddie Clarke released Rees-Zammit for his second of the match.

A yellow card for Josh Hohneck for a high tackle left Gloucester a man light, during which time Francis added three points from the tee and, although Rees-Zammit completed his treble when Gloucester worked the ball wide, he nailed another penalty to leave Saints out of sight.

Struggling Leicester Tigers dramatically fought back from a 14-point deficit to earn a thrilling 30-30 draw with Harlequins at Twickenham.

Quins were in complete command against a Leicester side with just a solitary win to their name this season, with tries from Paul Lasike, Marcus Smith and Chris Robshaw helping the hosts to a 27-13 lead.

But Jordan Taufua started the comeback on the hour, before Smith and Leicester fly-half George Ford exchanged penalties.

Will Collier's yellow then left Quins at a temporary numerical disadvantage, which Leicester made the most of when Telusa Veainu latched onto a kick from Ford, who added the extras to tie up the game.

Sale Sharks made it back-to-back wins to move seventh in the table as Rhys Priestland kicked 11 points in a 16-14 beating of Bath, for whom Akker van Der Merwe and Byron McGuigan went over in quickfire scores after the break.

Worcester Warriors, hammered 36-3 by Gloucester last time out, bounced back with a 20-6 beating of London Irish – the visitors having Motu Matu'u sent off seven minutes before the break, shortly after Allan Dell was also sin-binned for the away team. 

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.

Saracens breathed new life into their European Champions Cup title defence as the Vunipola brothers starred in a 15-6 win over Munster at Allianz Park.

The reigning champions, who have lifted the trophy in three of the past four seasons, had won just one of their opening three games and came into the game trailing Pool 4 leaders Racing 92 by 11 points.

They were 6-3 behind against Munster early in the second half when a melee ensued after Jamie George appeared to be enraged by a conversation with a member of Munster's staff.

The brawl spilled over onto the advertising hoardings and, once it had subsided, Munster got a penalty which JJ Hanrahan missed.

Saracens soon came alive as Billy Vunipola, with three men converging on him, flipped a brilliant pass out to Sean Maitland to score before Mako Vunipola dotted down eight minutes from time to leave Sarries just one point behind second-placed Munster.

Leinster, the side Sarries beat in last season's final, made it four wins from four in Pool 1 with a dominant 50-21 victory over Northampton as Garry Ringrose scored a hat-trick.

The Ireland centre went over twice in the opening six minutes before Tadhg Furlong and Dave Kearney earned Leinster a bonus point prior to half-time.

Ringrose completed his treble after James Lowe had scored, with Caelan Doris crossing for Leinster's seventh and final try.

Premiership leaders Northampton - whose try-scorers were Dan Biggar, Ollie Sleightholme and Ahsee Tuala - now trail Leinster by 10 points with two games remaining.

Robin Copeland's 81st-minute try earned Connacht a 27-24 success over Gloucester, while Marco Lazzaroni's late score proved the difference in Benetton Treviso's 25-22 triumph against Lyon.

Toulouse beat Montpellier 26-18 while La Rochelle edged past Glasgow Warriors 12-7.

 

Leinster made it 10 wins from 10 to start the season as they routed Northampton Saints 43-16 in the European Champions Cup to move five points clear at the top of Pool 1.

The Irish province, beaten in last season's final by Saracens, ran in seven tries to beat Premiership leaders Saints, who came into this game having won both of their first two games in this competition.

Three Dan Biggar penalties, added to a try from Ahsee Tuala, meant Northampton led 16-14 with two minutes remaining in the first half.

However, Andrew Porter dotted down for Leinster's third try, following earlier scores from James Lowe and Rhys Ruddock, to ensure the visitors were leading 19-16 at the interval.

Northampton then failed to score a second-half point, while Cian Healy, Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath and Ed Byrne all crossed in Leinster's handsome victory.

Ulster moved top of Pool 3 as John Cooney's 79th-minute penalty earned them a 25-24 success over Harlequins.

Both sides scored three tries apiece, Elia Elia going over twice for Quins, but Cooney kept his cool from the 10-metre line to seal the win for Ulster.

Defending champions Saracens were beaten 10-3 by Munster to suffer their second loss in Pool 4.

Peter O'Mahony crossed for the game's only try in the 31st minute, with all the points scored prior to the interval, and the only sour moment for Munster came in the 82nd minute when Arno Botha was dismissed for dangerous play.

Teddy Thomas accounted for two of Racing 92's six tries in their 40-19 rout of Ospreys, who were left to rue Dan Evans' red card after just 37 seconds.

The full-back was given his marching orders for kicking Thomas in the face as he collected a high ball, and Ospreys never recovered.

Elsewhere, Lyon beat Benetton Treviso 28-0, while Glasgow Warriors edged past La Rochelle 27-24.

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