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."

Sam Simmonds and Olly Woodburn scored doubles as Exeter Chiefs ran in eight tries to obliterate Bath 57-20, sealing their return to the top of the Premiership.

Sale moved into first place on points difference with their emphatic win over London Irish on Friday, but Exeter swiftly returned to the summit with a dominant performance of their own.

They were 36-3 up when number eight Simmonds' second try one minute into the second half was successfully converted.

Bath then touched down three times to make the scoreline more respectable but could not avoid defeat, with Woodburn and Jack Maunder increasing Exeter's margin of victory in the closing stages.

Elsewhere on Saturday, a Saracens team that included Mako Vunipola earned a 24-13 home win over struggling Leicester Tigers thanks to two Alex Lewington tries.

Controversy has surrounded Vunipola, who was stood down by England for their Six Nations match against Wales after returning from Tonga via Hong Kong amid coronavirus fears, even though he has not displayed symptoms.

Ben White ran in Leicester's only try of the match in the second half to put his side ahead, but the momentum changed when Dominic Morris crossed for Sarries just after the visitors had Telusa Veainu sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on.

Wasps claimed a third straight win under Lee Blackett to move above Bath and up to fifth place as they saw off Gloucester at the Ricoh Arena.

The hosts triumphed 39-22, having scored 22 unanswered points in the first 30 minutes. Gloucester have now suffered six consecutive defeats across all competitions.

Mako Vunipola will start for Saracens in their Premiership clash with Leicester Tigers on Saturday after being omitted from England's Six Nations squad to face Wales on "medical grounds".

England stood Vunipola down on the advice of their medical team amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, the prop having briefly travelled through Hong Kong en route home from a trip to visit family in Tonga.

Though Vunipola was not placed in self-isolation and had not reported any illness, England felt it was best to leave him away from their "camp-based environment" ahead of Saturday's encounter at Twickenham.

Saracens took a different view, though, explaining that they followed guidance from the health authorities and that neither Mako Vunipola nor his injured brother Billy had "displayed symptoms of the coronavirus" following assessments.

Mako Vunipola will therefore take his place in Saracens' starting XV for the visit of Leicester.

Saracens are bottom of the table due to their 105-point deduction over salary cap breaches while the Tigers are directly above them in 11th, having won just four of their 12 fixtures to date.

Steve Borthwick says Mako Vunipola was stood down on medical advice due to England's 24/7 "camp-based environment" - insisting the prop has not been placed in self-isolation amid the coronavirus outbreak.

England on Tuesday revealed that Vunipola will not feature in the Six Nations clash with Wales at Twickenham on Saturday for "medical reasons".

The British and Irish Lion was ruled out after travelling back from Tonga via Hong Kong, but Saracens on Wednesday stated he had been cleared to play for the Premiership champions against Leicester this weekend.

England assistant coach Borthwick explained that the Rugby World Cup runners-up could not take any risks.

"Our medical team looks at our team environment, not other people's," Borthwick told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"And that's the advice we followed. We are a camp-based environment and we stay in together 24 hours a day effectively.

"Mako didn't come into camp on the advice of our medical team, who looked into the situation closely and as a precaution they advised us that the best thing for our environment was for him not to come in.

"Mako is not ill, he is not in self-isolation, but the advice we got for our environment from our medical team and the relevant parties they consulted was that he should not come into camp, and that's the advice we followed."

Sale Sharks moved up to second in the Premiership with an easy 36-3 win over Leicester Tigers.

Second-bottom Leicester took the lead through Noel Reid's penalty but it was all downhill thereafter.

Marland Yarde's try was sandwiched between efforts from Bryn Evans and Coenie Oosthuizen as Sale took command and the wing scored each of the Sharks' second-half tries to complete his hat-trick.

Wasps routed already-relegated Saracens 60-10 in Friday's other game to go seventh.

Zack Kibirige and Brad Shields crossed for doubles while Jimmy Gopperth tallied 20 points with the boot as Wasps went level with Gloucester on 23 points in the fight for the European Challenge Cup places.

Elliot Daly has followed Jamie George's lead by signalling his intent to remain with relegated Saracens.

The English and European champions will drop down into the Championship next season after breaching the Premiership's salary cap rules.

Uncertainly surrounded several of Sarries' international stars but England hooker George became the first to commit his future to the club earlier this week.

Club and international team-mate Daly has now announced his intention to do likewise.

"My plan is probably pretty similar to Jamie. I am still in contract," said Daly, whose immediate focus remains with England and the Six Nations. 

"At the moment I am not thinking about that. It is coming but we have the rest of the season to sort it out. 

"At the moment, I am just thinking about the next couple of games with England and then when I get back to Sarries then start talking about next year."

It has been an interesting start to life at Sarries for Daly, who walked straight into the crisis at Allianz Park following England's Rugby World Cup final defeat.

However, he has no regrets about leaving Wasps, despite the off-field issues at his new club.

"My first day wasn't the best. It's a big thing and it's not to be taken lightly, but the way Saracens dealt with the players I thought was really good," Daly added.

"I didn't see this coming, but I definitely don't have any regrets joining. The way that we train, the players there, the coaching staff - it's an amazing club to be at.

"When a club like Saracens want to sign you, the best team in Europe as they were at that time, it's a no-brainer to go and play with some very good people."

Curtis Rona scored a pair of tries as London Irish secured a 29-15 derby win at Harlequins, while Premiership high-flyers Sale Sharks were brought back down to earth by beleaguered Saracens.

Irish stunned title contenders Northampton Saints last time out and followed that up with a convincing bonus-point victory at The Stoop on Saturday.

Rona laid on the opening try for Matt Rogerson in treacherous conditions and the all-action wing grabbed his first of the afternoon after brilliant work from Ben Meehan.

A Marcus Smith penalty was Quins' only score of the first half and they were 17-3 down at the break after Stephen Myler was on the target from the tee at the other end, having converted both tries.

Alex Dombrandt powered his way over to reduce the deficit, but Rona dotted down again and Ollie Hoskins bagged the bonus point after Cadan Murley helped himself to Quins' second try in west London.

Sale missed the chance to move ahead of Northampton into second spot, going down 36-22 to champions Saracens at Allianz Park after beating leaders Exeter Chiefs in their previous match.

Rhys Carre, Rotimi Segun, Nick Isiekwe and Richard Barrington touched down for Saracens, while fit-again full-back Alex Goode shone in his first Premiership match of the season.

Wasps were beaten 18-9 by fellow strugglers Leicester Tigers at the end of a week that saw director of rugby Dai Young step back from first-team duties, while Bath edged out Worcester Warriors 22-21.

Michael Fatialofa has taken his first steps as the Worcester Warriors lock continues his rehabilitation from a serious spinal injury.

The forward was injured during Worcester's Premiership encounter at Saracens on January 4 and spent four weeks at London's St Mary's Hospital.

Three of those were spent in intensive care before Fatialofa was transferred to a specialist spinal clinic at the Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital in Aylesbury.

The 27-year-old posted an update on Instagram, where he can be seen on a video lifting his legs without support and taking tentative steps with the aid of hospital staff.

"Six weeks deep. Doctors didn't know me. Could be years of grinding ahead but determined to get out of this chair," he wrote.

Meanwhile, Sarries pledged to donate £1,000 for every try they score on Saturday against Sale Sharks towards his recovery, while a JustGiving page has raised almost £34,000.

Allianz have announced they will end their sponsorship deal with Premiership club Saracens at the end of the season.

The news comes after it was confirmed last month that the English and European champions will be relegated to the second tier next term for breaching salary cap rules.

Financial services company Allianz have worked with Sarries since 2012, with the relationship worth reportedly more than £2million a year through naming rights to the ground and shirt sponsorship.

An Allianz statement read: "Allianz has taken the difficult decision to end its sponsorship of Saracens Rugby Club and stadium at the end of this season.

"Allianz intends to continue to be involved in the great work that the Saracens Sports Foundation does in their local community and wishes Saracens well in the future."

Sarries responded with a statement of their own, which said: "Saracens Rugby Club can confirm it has agreed to end its lead partnership with Allianz at the end of the 2019-2020 season.

"The partnership was successful since its inception back in 2012, encompassing naming rights for Allianz Park stadium and the club’s playing shirts, as well as principal partner of the Saracens Sports Foundation.

"Saracens would like to thank Allianz for its support over the last eight years and the club is pleased that it has re-affirmed its commitment to the Foundation until the end of the 2020-21 season. This ensures continuity in what is such a key aspect of the club's community programme in a partnership which uses the power of sports to inspire and improve lives throughout the north London community.

"Saracens look forward to the remainder of the 2019-20 season working with the Allianz team around the club's existing games at Allianz Park as well as its showpiece fixture The Showdown at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday 28th March, where Saracens will play in Allianz's special edition blue shirt.

"Saracens look forward to working with our stable of committed Principal Partners including Nike, Hy-Pro and Simba and we would like to thank them for their ongoing support. We are also excited about developing new commercial partnerships in the coming months."

Jamie George will continue playing at Saracens next season despite the club's demotion from the Premiership.

The English and European champions have been relegated to the Championship for breaching salary cap regulations, leading to uncertainty over the future of several of the club's star names.

England hooker George is one of several internationals plying their trade at Allianz Park, but he told Sky Sports he will continue to play for Saracens in the second tier.

"I'm pretty sure I'm staying," he said.

"The details of it I'm not too sure about, but I'll be staying at the club and using it for different purposes, but I'll certainly be playing some rugby next year."

George is the first player to publicly announce he is staying put, but it was reported last month that Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Elliot Daly and the Vunipola brothers, Billy and Mako, will stay after three-way talks between Sarries, England, and the British and Irish Lions.

Although unwilling to speak for his team-mates, George believes others will follow his decision.

"I haven't spoken to the other boys," he said. "My decision's been made purely from a personal point of view and I wouldn't want to speak on their behalf, but it's looking that way."

Last week, Saracens were also fined €50,000 for fielding Titi Lamositele against Racing 92 without a valid work permit but avoided expulsion from the European Champions Cup.

Saracens have been fined €50,000 for fielding Titi Lamositele against Racing 92 without a valid work permit but the holders will remain in the European Champions Cup.

There were reports that Sarries could be thrown out of the competition after European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) brought a misconduct complaint against them.

The champions of Europe and England faced an independent disciplinary hearing in London on Friday as a result of Lamositele's appearance in a crunch Pool 4 clash with Racing last month, which took place a day after his documentation expired.

United States prop Lamositele came off the bench in a crucial 27-24 win at Allianz Park on January 19 but may have been ineligible due to what EPCR described as "an inadvertent administrative error on behalf of the club".

A tweet from the Champions Cup revealed that the London club have been fined €50,000, half of which is suspended until the end of the 2020/21 season.

Sarries will be relegated from the Premiership at the end of the season for breaching salary-cap regulations but could still retain the Champions Cup.

The victory over Racing saw them through to the quarter-finals, with a showdown against Leinster to come on April 4 in a repeat of last season's final.

Saracens could face more punishment after Titi Lamositele played in a crucial European Champions Cup victory over Racing 92 last month a day after his work permit expired.

The European and English champions are already facing relegation from the Premiership at the end of the season for breaching salary-cap regulations.

Sarries will face an independent disciplinary committee on Friday after European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) brought a misconduct complaint against them.

Lamositele came off the bench in a 27-24 win over Racing on January 19, but may have been ineligible due to what EPCR described as "an inadvertent administrative error on behalf of the club".

An independent disciplinary committee consisting of Roger Morris, Pamela Woodman and Jean-Noel Couraud will hear the misconduct complaint in London.

The London club face Leinster in the quarter-finals at the Aviva Stadium on April 4 in a repeat of last season's final.

Saracens were handed a 70-point deduction on Tuesday as Premiership Rugby outlined the process that would see them relegated at the end of the season.

Having already stated the reigning English and European champions would be demoted for breaches of the salary cap, league officials have confirmed how that will play out.

The humiliating fall from grace had already seen Saracens docked 35 points, and the further deduction means they are now sure to finish at the foot of the Premiership table.

The London-based team now sit on minus 77 points, despite picking up six wins from their opening nine games.

In a statement published on its website, Premiership Rugby said the January 18 ruling regarding Saracens' fate was followed by talks with the Rugby Football Union, English rugby's governing body.

New salary cap regulations published on Tuesday by Premiership Rugby show clubs will be subject to tighter regulation, with those found to have breached the senior squad ceiling of £6.4million by £350,000 or more susceptible to deductions of 70 points if they do not "fully co-operate in a timely manner" with investigations.

Regarding Saracens, Premiership Rugby said: "A further deduction of 70 points has been imposed on Saracens in the current season. This sanction is in addition to the separate deduction of 35 points imposed in November 2019 for breaches of the salary cap in previous seasons.

"The 70-point deduction ensures that Saracens will end the current season in 12th position. The league table will be updated with effect from today."

Saracens were handed a resounding 41-14 defeat by Harlequins in the absence of several key players as they returned to Premiership action for the first time since their automatic relegation was confirmed.

With seven players at an England training camp ahead of the Six Nations and Billy Vunipola out with a broken arm, Saracens – who will spend next season in the Championship after breaching salary cap regulations – succumbed to a chastening loss as the rain lashed down at Twickenham Stoop.

Quins welcomed captain Chris Robshaw back into the line-up and took the lead inside two minutes, Alex Dombrandt putting the disappointment of being overlooked by Eddie Jones aside by winning a turnover and setting up Danny Care to touch down.

Cadan Murley finished off a sweeping move in the right corner in the 11th minute and had a second try after a stunning dummy from Marcus Smith helped make it 19-0.

Alex Lozowski reduced the arrears before half-time but Gabriel Ibitoye and Paul Lasike crossed within 10 minutes of the restart to establish a 24-point cushion for Quins.

Manu Vunipola added the extras after teeing up Dom Morris for a Sarries try out wide, but Martin Landajo raced clear after intercepting the ball to round-off a bonus-point triumph that moved Quins level with fifth-placed Bristol.

Nigel Wray has taken full responsibility for the "heartache" he has caused after Premiership Rugby published a full report of Saracens' "egregious" and "reckless" breaches of salary-cap regulations.

The European and English champions were docked 35 Premiership points and fined £5.36million in November for exceeding the ceiling for payments to players in each of the last three seasons to the tune of around £2.1m over that period.

There was worse to come for the London club when it was announced last weekend they would be relegated from the top flight at the end of the season after being unable to prove they have complied with salary-cap regulations for the current campaign.

Premiership Rugby on Thursday made public how an independent disciplinary panel came to a decision to punish Saracens for the breaches in the last three seasons in a report that does not include the current campaign.

A summary of the panel's verdict stated that Sarries had "continuously and recklessly failed to comply with its obligations to cooperate with the SCM (salary cap manager)."

Sarries argued co-investments club owner Wray, who quit at the start of this month, entered into with players should not be count towards salaries but he has now accepted taking an "ill-considered approach." 

Wray said in a statement: "I am really sorry for the heartache that I have caused you [supporters] due to my ill-considered approach to matters relating to salary cap compliance. My intention with co-investments was always to support players beyond their playing careers.

"I recognise that the actions of the club were described by the panel as 'reckless' primarily due to my failure to consult with PRL's salary cap manager prior to entering into any agreements and then disclosing the transactions to him. I take full responsibility for this. We should have been far better. 

"Equally important is the panel's determination that neither the club nor myself deliberately attempted to breach the cap."

Wray revealed that property co-investments with players, a payment by a former player to himself and a club director, and the purchase of 30 per cent of a player's image rights by himself and two other directors were among the "one-off transactions" the panel considered to be undeclared salary.

Agent fees and appearances at MBN Events, owned by Wray's daughter Lucy, were also classed as undeclared salary.

Darren Childs, chief executive of Premiership Rugby, said upon the release of the report: "We are pleased to be able to finally publish the full judgment on Saracens' breaches of the salary cap in the last three seasons.

"Now that everyone can see the details, the decision will show that Premiership Rugby has taken firm action to enforce the regulations and our management of the salary cap has been endorsed by the panel."

Page 1 of 5
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.