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.

May 11 is a day that has contrasting FA Cup final fortunes for each side of the Manchester divide.

While for United it was a day to celebrate in 1996 after Alex Ferguson's men defeated the old enemy Liverpool, for City it was one to forget in 2013 as Wigan Athletic pulled off a huge shock.

Arsenal remember the date fondly as they were crowned champions of England 19 years to the day, while just 12 months ago Saracens were standing tall in Europe in what was a familiar story.

Below we take a look at some of the memorable sporting moments from May 11.


1991 – Golden Graham's Gunners lift league title

For the second time in the space of three seasons, Arsenal were crowned champions of England in the 1990-91 campaign.

Some 13 years before Arsene Wenger's 'Invincibles', George Graham's team lost just once and thumped Coventry City 6-1 in their final game of the season in a hectic campaign.

During the season, Tony Adams was jailed for drink-driving and the Gunners were docked two points for their part in a brawl at Manchester United in October 1990.

1996 – Cantona sinks the 'Spice Boys'

There is little love lost in the rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool but in truth the 1996 FA Cup final was a forgettable game.

Eric Cantona settled the clash at Wembley, shooting through a crowd of players in the 85th minute to complete a league and cup double for the Red Devils.

While the action on the pitch did not live long in the memory, the sight of Liverpool's squad arriving in white Armani suits has lasted the test of time.

The funky attire did little to shelve the 'Spice Boys' moniker that had been given to the Liverpool squad by the British press.

2013 – Watson header sees Latics shock City

Seventeen years later and the blue half of Manchester suffered an upset FA Cup final defeat as City were downed 1-0 by Wigan Athletic.

City's expensively assembled cast were the overwhelming favourites having won the same trophy two years previously and been crowned Premier League champions in 2011-12.

But substitute Ben Watson headed home in the first minute of injury time to leave City – who had Pablo Zabaleta sent off six minutes from the end – little time to muster a response.

Just a couple of days later, City sacked boss Roberto Mancini.

2019 – Sarries reign in Europe again

The past few months have been particularly trying for Saracens, who will be relegated from the Premiership over a breach of salary-cap regulations.

But just 12 months ago, Sarries were celebrating a third European Rugby Champions Cup success in the space of four years thanks for a 20-10 triumph over Leinster.

New Zealand's Super Rugby teams will begin a season of their own starting next month.

The Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders will play in Super Rugby Aotearoa, beginning on June 13, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

New Zealand announced on Monday it was moving to alert level two on Thursday, clearing the way for Super Rugby to begin in the country.

The nation's five Super Rugby teams will play each other home and away over 10 weeks, beginning with a clash between the Highlanders and Chiefs behind closed doors in Dunedin on June 13, with the fixture released on Monday.

"The thought of five world-class Kiwi teams battling it out in 20 matches over 10 weeks should put a smile back on the faces of many people," New Zealand Rugby (NZR) chief executive Mark Robinson said in a statement.

"I know our players are excited and I'm sure rugby fans will be as well."

He added: "Medical and operational staff across NZR, the Players' Association and the clubs have been working together to ensure we have detailed plans in place to protect the health and safety of everyone involved."

Players, team management and officials will undergo daily symptom and temperature checks, to go with stringent hygiene and cleaning and contact-tracing practices.

New Zealand has seen more than 1,400 coronavirus cases, including 21 deaths.

Full-back Benjamin Fall is the latest player to leave Top 14 side Montpellier.

Fall joined Montpellier from Racing 92 in 2014 and has played 99 games for the club, but he will not reach three figures.

The 31-year-old, capped 14 times by France, joins the likes of Nemani Nadolo in leaving Montpellier.

Fall won the European Challenge Cup in 2016 and was a Top 14 runner-up two years ago during his six-year stay.

He told the club's official website: "I will have a word for each of the people I have come into contact with in this club during these six years which have been exceptional, rich in learning, positive or negative emotions, questioning, sharing, laughter, crying, doubts, advice etc.

"I have never cheated, always given everything for this club. I hope I have demonstrated it."

Fall had no news of where he will be playing next season.

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."

Vincent Clerc is excited by the potential a youthful France side has but warned it is premature to be talking up their chances of winning the 2023 Rugby World Cup on home soil.

Les Bleus were top of the Six Nations table with one game to play against Ireland when the tournament was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic in March.

An inexperienced France team had started the Fabien Galthie era in style by beating England and were on course for a Grand Slam before losing to Scotland at Murrayfield.

French rugby fans have been starved of success in recent times, with their last Six Nations title coming a decade ago.

Clerc is optimistic about the future, but stressed the importance of patience. 

Reflecting on the Six Nations performances, the former France wing told Stats Perform: "It was nice to watch. It is enjoyable, we wanted to see them winning. They started very well against England and lost one game.

"We are getting excited with this team and that's normal because we know they are very talented, they have a good team spirit, the players want to be together and play for each other. There is a solidarity between the players, so we like them.

"But we have to be patient. They are young players, they can make some mistakes, there will be some defeats. We said many good things about them, but there are some difficulties, we can't be too severe.

"We have to give them some time to grow. They have a good potential and a great team spirit. It was what we were expecting. The team spirit and the values of this team were important in the last Six Nations, maybe more important than the performances on the field."

Clerc says France must show more proof that they can step up against high-quality opposition before the next World Cup.

"I think they have to be ready before 2023, 2023 is the final goal. I think that many players, who are now in the French national team, will play several World Cups," he added.

"I think this team has to be stronger and stronger to be at 100 per cent in 2023. That also means that, in the meantime, they have to win Six Nations, they have to win friendly games in November or in the summer, they need to win against teams from the Southern Hemisphere.

"It will be important, they have to learn. There will be some ups and downs in the next years."

Vincent Clerc is anticipating a "fantastic" 2020-21 Top 14 season after the previous campaign was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bordeaux Begles were eight points clear at the summit with nine games of the regular season remaining when the action was brought to a halt.

The season was scrapped at the end of last month and it is hoped the best teams in France will be back on the field to start again in September.

Former France wing Clerc is expecting big things when rugby union returns in his homeland and thinks the 2019-20 competition was nicely poised for a gripping finale.

He told Stats Perform: "Who impressed me last season? There are players, of course, but if I have to choose a team, it's Bordeaux. They had a fantastic season.

"They are the Top 14 leaders. We have also seen an amazing start for Bayonne. Before the break, Toulouse were coming back. I think it was an undecided/uncertain season.

"This year, Toulon also had a good season. So it was a nice championship this year. I am looking forward to see it starting again.

"I think next season can be fantastic, because the 2019-20 season was very enjoyable. I am looking forward to the next season."

Clerc says the players will need some game time before next season begins.

"No, they [the players] can't be at 100 per cent [in September]. Maybe there will be some friendly games," he added. 

"But if there is no friendly game, the physical preparation and the training sessions will never replace the matches. So they will need some matchdays to find their pace, to find the right intensity.

"Everybody will return to the competition, everybody will try some things and find their balance. But it will take some matchdays, for sure."

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.

Rugby Australia (RA) interim CEO Rob Clarke wants a swift return to play and to get a handle on the organisation's financial state.

Clarke outlined his two key objectives at his first media conference in the role on Thursday, having met with board members on Zoom beforehand.

The former Brumbies and Rebels CEO has replaced Raelene Castle after her controversial reign came to an end last month.

He is in no doubt as to the scale of the task facing him, with rugby on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has had a huge monetary impact.

"There's a lot to be done," said Clarke. "The game has gone through a very, very challenging period and the first item on the agenda is to get ourselves playing around the country again.

"I'm delighted with the plans that have been put into place with the team here, we're well positioned for when the restrictions are lifted and will enable us to get rugby played at both a community level and a professional level as soon as we possibly can."

Clarke revealed proposals had been put to the Australian government for the sport to return, with July the earliest date play could resume at the elite level.

"[At the] professional level, our plans have been submitted to the government," he said.

"Assuming that restrictions are lifted as we hope in the next week or so, we would aim to be playing in possibly July with training starting in June, but of course it's all tied to restrictions.

"The government has our proposal and I hope they view it favourably and that will give us a rough time frame."

Prior to her departure, Castle announced provisional losses of $9.4million for RA in 2019, with a much larger deficit – reported as up to $120m ​– on the books for 2020 if rugby does not return this year.

Clarke, however, is hopeful a World Rugby bailout will ease RA's worries.

"That is something that is absolute priority, clearly the game is not in healthy financial shape, we know that, the exact details I'll get across in coming days," he said.

"I'm confident that World Rugby money is secure and that will be approved imminently and that goes a long way to relieving some immediate financial pressures. But I need a little bit more time to get under the numbers and understanding where we're at."

A Super Rugby competition involving New Zealand's five teams could begin as early as next month, it was announced on Thursday.

The New Zealand Government cleared professional rugby to resume when the nation shifts to coronavirus alert level two, with a decision due on Monday.

Super Rugby Aotearoa will involve the country's five teams – the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders.

The five teams will play each other home and away behind closed doors over 10 weeks.

"For our fans, our players and everyone involved in Investec Super Rugby, we are thrilled that the sports minister has given the green light for professional sport to resume at level two," New Zealand Rugby (NZR) chief executive Mark Robinson said in a statement.

"Both netball and rugby have been working closely with government agencies on what training and playing at level two could look like, and we are incredibly grateful for their support."

Robinson added: "We're delighted for our fans that in a best-case scenario we will have top-quality rugby back on our screens next month.

"I know the players would prefer to be playing in front of our fans, but the health and safety of Kiwis must come first."

Players are set to be given three to four weeks to prepare before a season commences.

SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos welcomed the move, with Super Rugby having been suspended in March and facing major challenges due to travel restrictions around the world.

"We have known for some time that once the green light is given to recommence playing [in any of our territories] that a revised Super Rugby competition format would have to be implemented," he said.

"This will mean a strong domestic focus in each territory given the travel, border and government restrictions that we will have to adhere to.

"Given today's announcement by the New Zealand Government, SANZAAR will now in conjunction with NZR move to the implementation of the revised Super Rugby format that has been agreed upon by all SANZAAR partners and stakeholders.

"We will work with NZR around the possible start date that satisfies government requirements."

New Zealand has seen just 21 deaths from coronavirus, with more than 1,400 cases.

Rugby Australia (RA) director Peter Wiggs has resigned just over a month after joining the board.

Wiggs was elected as a director on March 30, but his resignation was confirmed on Wednesday.

The Supercars chairman was poised to become RA chairman before a fallout over his chief executive plans, according to a report from the Sydney Morning Herald.

In a statement, RA chairman Paul McLean said: "Peter has decided to step down from the board and I understand his reasons.

"He has undertaken some very important work and has made a valuable contribution to the organisation, in a very short time, and we are thankful for his contribution.

"The immediate priority of the board is to install a replacement for Peter, and an interim chief executive. I will provide an update on those matters at the appropriate time."

Sam Cane has succeeded Kieran Read as New Zealand captain, the All Blacks announced on Tuesday.

The loose forward, 28, made his debut against Ireland in 2012 and has gone on to represent his country on 68 occasions, with 48 of those appearances as a starter.

Cane, who has already captained New Zealand three times, was a Rugby World Cup winner in 2015 and part of the team that finished third in Japan last year.

"It's a pretty exciting challenge really and as I've spent more time in the All Blacks and grown as a player, I've become a lot more comfortable being a leader in the team," Cane said.

"The great thing about the All Blacks is that the leadership group is full of captains and experienced players already, so I'm just really looking forward to working closely with that group and doing my best to lead them and the rest of the squad.

"My style as captain will be to not really change the way I do things. I'm just myself and will continue to be. I already work on building relationships, especially with the younger guys in the squad, and everyone else connected with the team, so that will continue.

"While we don't know yet what the rest of the year looks like for the All Blacks, I'm looking forward to catching up with the coaches and other senior players as we firm up our plans."

Read retired from international rugby after the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

New All Blacks coach Ian Foster said Cane, who has made 116 appearances for the Chiefs and won two Super Rugby titles, is a natural leader and has an important part to play amid uncertain times in global sport as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Sam is an experienced All Black with eight years in the team now and is a 'follow me' type of leader and a very good thinker in the game," Foster said.

"He has a natural ability to connect with everyone in the team and is straightforward and direct when he needs to be.

"There's massive respect for Sam amongst the players and management, and he's perfectly placed to lead the All Blacks into the future.

"We wanted to confirm Sam now because he'll play a key role helping us plan for whatever the future looks like and will be working behind the scenes with the other leaders."

SA Rugby has admitted it is considering the possibility of rescheduling the British and Irish Lions tour due to the impact of the coronavirus.

Warren Gatland's Lions are due to visit South Africa next July and August for a tour that will feature three Tests against the world champions.

However, the outbreak of COVID-19 could have a knock-on effect on that tour, with Northern Hemisphere countries facing up to the possibility of missing out on revenue from internationals that may have to be scrapped later this year.

A report over the weekend claimed the Lions' 2021 tour to South Africa could be cancelled entirely as World Rugby contemplates how to reschedule the calendar when the sport returns.

SA Rugby has insisted the Lions tour remains on, though it conceded the dates are being looked at.

"While we continue to look forward to an incredible tour by The British and Irish Lions next year, and there are no planned changes, it would be remiss of us not to explore various scenarios for a possible date change caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said an SA Rugby spokesperson.

The Lions last toured South Africa in 2009, losing 2-1 to the Springboks.

They have since beaten Australia 2-1 and drawn with New Zealand under Gatland.

SANZAAR has rubbished reports that Super Rugby will be scrapped but confirmed there is set to be a "strong domestic focus" when this season resumes.

A trans-Tasman tournament is among the options that have been talked of as an alternative to Super Rugby, which is already due to be reduced to 14 teams next season after the Sunwolves were cut.

SANZAAR, the body that oversees Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship, says teams are likely to face less travel when the current campaign restarts due to restrictions imposed as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Yet Andy Marinos, the SANZAAR chief executive, says there has been no agreement reached over a new long-term structure.

Marinos said: "Having spoken with my SANZAAR board members I can confirm that none of the suggested models or structures that have been commented on recently, such as stand-alone Trans-Tasman formats, have been agreed by any of the SANZAAR unions individually or collectively.

"All such reports are merely speculative and have no basis to them.

"This is not to say that we are not having realistic discussions on what may have to eventuate should COVID-19 restrictions continue beyond 2020.

"We are presently looking in detail at various competition formats, but any agreed format will include teams from all four stakeholder national unions.

"Due to uncertainty over what various government restrictions, if any, may look like next year including international travel, no date has been set yet as to when a decision will be made on 2021 and beyond.

"A major consideration is that we also have an obligation to discuss any contingencies with our broadcast partners in the first instance after which we will make public comment."

 

Ireland back Fergus McFadden has revealed he will retire at the end of the season, calling time on a career that took in World Cup, Six Nations and European club rugby exploits.

The 33-year-old won 34 caps for his country, pulling on the green shirt from 2011 to 2018 and scoring 10 tries as a versatile wing and centre.

He has made 184 appearances to date for Leinster, helping the province become European champions twice, appearing in their 2011 and 2012 Champions Cup final triumphs over Northampton and Ulster respectively.

He missed the 2018 final victory over Racing 92 after injuring himself three weeks earlier when scoring a try in the semi-final win against the Scarlets.

McFadden said: "They say the best time to leave a party is when you're still having fun so the time has come for me to announce my retirement from the end of the season."

He told Leinster's website: "It's hard to put into words what a privilege it has been to have had such a long career playing for the team I grew up supporting and pulling on a green jersey to play for my country. It has been a dream come true."

McFadden went with Ireland to the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand and bagged a try in the group game against Russia in Rotorua, while he also helped his country win the 2014 and 2018 Six Nations and appeared in six campaigns.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen said: “Fergus has been an amazing contributor to lots of great things that have taken place in Leinster and Irish rugby and he's definitely one of the great characters that we’ve had around in the group. He had so many strings to his bow and he's going to be a great loss to the group.

“We are being guided by public health guidelines at the moment but naturally the hope is that Fergus gets the chance to pull on the Leinster jersey again."

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