IRFU club competitions for the 2020/21 season have been modified for the forthcoming season to focus on player welfare and COVID-19 risk mitigation.

The season will be split into two stages – stage 1 will keep all friendlies and competitive matches localised between September and December 2020 and Stage 2 will see a reformatted Energia All-Ireland League commence in January.

The Energia All-Ireland League element has a start date of 9 January 2021. It will consist of a nine-game league season with semi-finals and finals in all men’s and women’s divisions. The size and make-up of each 10-team division remains unchanged from the finishing positions of 2019-20. As it is a truncated format, no promotion or relegation will take place.

To ensure competitive rugby in Stage 1 all AIL clubs will compete in the Energia Community Series run across newly formed localised conferences. Success in these conferences will bring with them both silverware and the chance to qualify for knockout rugby at an All-Ireland level in Stage 2 of the season.

Detail in full, including player welfare principles and COVID-19 Ordinance, is available in the IRFU Club Competitions Season Outline 2020/2021 document.

Introducing the document, IRFU Rugby Committee Chair Greg Barrett said:

“Our Return To Rugby Guidelines For Clubs mapped out a ‘safety first’ approach for clubs and we continue to be guided by this and the work of IRFU Medical Director Rod McLoughlin as we build towards a resumption of competitive rugby in 2020.

“While there are many factors which helped shape this season outline, you will see that player welfare and COVID-19 risk mitigation are by far the biggest consideration.

“We are also hopeful that a focus on keeping rugby at a localised level in the first stage of the season brings with it an opportunity for clubs to re-energise their membership.”

Gary Ryan, Managing Director, Energia Customer Solutions said:

“We are once again proud to be the power behind the Energia All-Ireland League and its constituent cup competitions for the 2020/21 season.

“Energia supports any competition which places player welfare at the heart of its format and we are fully behind the IRFU in their need to put a modified season in place as we all look forward to a return to rugby.

“We welcome the inclusion of the Energia Community Series in Stage 1 of the season and understand the need for clubs to focus on their role in the community in the continued reopening of our society.

“When the time comes, we also eagerly await the return of the Energia All-Ireland League in January 2021 and the 30th anniversary of the competition.”