# plans
IRFU confirms shortened All-Ireland League will start in January 2021
The first half of the season will involve a new provincial Community Series.

THE IRFU HAS confirmed that a new shortened All-Ireland League campaign will start in January 2021.

With the IRFU stressing the need to focus on “player welfare and Covid-19 risk mitigation,” the 2020/21 senior club rugby season will be split into two stages.

Stage 1 will start on 26 September 2020 and conclude by 12 December 2020, with all AIL clubs competing in a new provincial ‘Energia Community Series’.

Stage 2 will run from January 2021 until May 2021, with a shortened Energia All-Ireland League season consisting of nine league games plus semi-finals and a final in all men’s and women’s divisions. Stage 2 will also involve All-Ireland cup competitions.

brian-hayes-celebrates-with-the-trophy Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Cork Con celebrate their 2018/19 AIL Division 1A success. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

The make-up of each 10-team AIL division remains the same as the 2019/20 campaign and there will be no promotion or relegation involved for this shortened AIL season in 2020/21.

The new provincial men’s Community Series will consist of two conferences in each of Munster, Leinster, and Ulster, with a single conference in Connacht. The final make-up of the conferences is still to be confirmed.


The women’s Community Series will involve one conference in each of the four provinces, with several participating clubs still to be determined along with the following:

Connacht Conference: Galwegians and any other teams to be determined.

Leinster Conference: Blackrock College, Old Belvedere, Railway Union, Suttonians Wicklow and any other teams to be determined.

Munster Conference: UL Bohemian, Ballincollig and any other teams to be determined.

Ulster Conference: Cooke, Malone and any other teams to be determined.

The winners of each conference in the men’s and women’s Community Series will receive a trophy, while conference placings will also determine qualification for the All-Ireland cup competitions to be played during Stage 2.

The IRFU has confirmed two new cup competitions for Stage 2 – the Energia Bateman Plate and the Energia Bateman Shield, meaning the full list of All-Ireland cup competitions in Stage 2 is as follows:

  • Energia Bateman Cup
  • Energia Bateman Plate
  • Energia Bateman Shield
  • Energia All-Ireland Women’s Cup
  • Energia All-Ireland Women’s Plate
  • Energia All-Ireland Women’s Shield
  • Energia All-Ireland Junior Cup 

Many club rugby teams in Ireland are now back in pre-season training ahead of the 2020/21 campaign.

Clubs will be able to resume contact training in graduated phases beginning on 20 July, with pre-season fixtures allowed from 29 August.

The IRFU stressed that “experiences in other countries inform us that the development of localised clusters is a real concern” and said that “keeping rugby matches local for longer will minimise the risk of disruption to meaningful competition.”

The IRFU added that progress into Stage 1 and then Stage 2 will only take place with continued government approval, continued low presence of Covid-19, a lack of clusters or any other resurgence of the virus, and the willingness of players to participate.

The union says that if Covid-19 in a club forces the cancellation of a match in Stage 1 or Stage 2, “the result shall be declared a draw and teams will be allocated two match points each and no score registered.”

IRFU Rugby Committee Chair, Greg Barrett, said the union hopes to see the new provincial competition in Stage 1 spark a renewal of the local community feel in clubs.

“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.”

You can read more about the new club rugby season in the IRFU’s Club Competitions Season Outline 2020/2021 document.

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