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January 2021 n Volume 11 Issue 1

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n Welcome to 2021, although it’s started out very much as a sequel to the year just departed, sadly.

There is greater hope that vaccinations will overcome the curse of coronavirus and at this usual time of optimism, our thoughts at Forty20towers remain first and foremost with those individuals who have lost loved ones and communities that have had their hearts ripped out.

This issue would normally be crammed full of predictions and look forward to what may unfold, but finding a route through is still like attempting to knit fog. The only certainty as the third UK ‘lockdown’ is in force is that there is none.

n Under the latest restrictions, community rugby league, which had been due to resume at youth and open age level in January, is now required to be suspended under Government rules.

The RFL issued a statement saying: “while recognising that the priority remains the public health emergency, [we] will continue to stress to Government, working with other sports, the importance of team sports in terms of the nation’s mental and physical fitness, and the importance of community clubs in terms of social cohesion – and will work towards a return of training then competitions as soon as possible this spring.”

The governing body advised clubs in Betfred Championship and League 1 to pause their pre-season training programmes in recognition of the crisis, to allow detailed discussions with clubs before the publication of fixtures – which will be delayed, as will the draw for the first two rounds of the Challenge Cup, until a further announcement later this month. That is despite professional or semi professional sport being deemed ‘elite’.

These divisions will have been without fans and competitive fixtures for over a year and, with a minimum of six weeks’ training

Totally Wicked: St Helens is set to host to the Rugby League World Cup this autumn – Covid permitting SWPix.com

Sands still shifting n tonyhannan@forty-20.com philcaplan@forty-20.com n needed to condition the players (a topic of even more relevance now given ongoing debate re collisions and concussion) the anticipated start date of the end of February is looking increasingly less likely.

There is another huge concern for those clubs outside the top flight who, it is believed, have been presented with a scenario that traditional central funding will run out in 2021, with signs that the Sky deal with Super League will fall below the agreed threshold to deliver the current disbursements.

The RFL may well have to go back to government for additional monies to protect the game below.

n Although a new deal with Sky is yet to be ratified, Championship owners have major concerns over recovering their investment, ironic at a time when that division looks the most enticing of all with the elevation of Newcastle Thunder.

As a guide of what to expect, BT Sport and Premiership Rugby announced the renewal of their longstanding broadcast partnership for the next four years, almost a year after the RFU authorities had turned down an initial bid from the broadcaster that had been worth £12million more.

n Academy and Scholarship programmes have also been suspended, and Betfred Women’s Super League clubs advised to pause their pre-season training programmes – although it is hoped England’s Women and Wheelchair squads will continue with their training camps in January and February as previously scheduled.

The RFL will continue to work closely with Super League clubs – who are back in full pre-season – to ensure the protocols around their training programmes reflect the current Covid landscape and understanding of the disease.

Again, a confirmed start date and schedule is shifting sand.

The position is further clouded by French union clubs being urged by their government to postpone matches against British sides to lower the risk of being infected.

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Concussion threat 16 Is Stevie Ward tip of the iceberg?

Hull ain’t Joshing 5 Trevor Baxter’s monthly profile Five Drives & A Kick 7 Johnson’s State of the Game address, Tas Baitieri and more The Reality Is... 13 Brian Noble MBE prepares for an unpredictable 2021 campaign Louie the Lip 15 LMS keeps a smile on his face World Cup countdown 17 Latest RLWC2021 developments Super Leigh are back 22 Mike Latham on his Leythers’ rise teamsheet

Bennett’s Breakdown 24 Our man signs off from Forty20 Café des Treizistes 25 Mike Rylance sees Toulouse spirit Stand Up for League 26 Ian Boldsworth keeps it onfield Mrs Carter’s Diary 27 First-footing Saddleworth-style Footy20 28 George Clarke has an Aussie view Championship Chat 30 Liam Claffey is getting excited

Match of the Month 40 Lezignan welcome Carcassonne Priim and Proper 43 Women’s RL delayed yet again Serbia history books 44 Phil Caplan on an interesting past Latham’s Loft 46 Wigan’s famous Italian Job Remembering Ged 48 Neil Barraclough pays tribute League on TV 49 RSW switches the telly on Any Other Business 50 Martin Kelner: Lets get quizzical

Not so Super League 20 Rhinos chief shares big concerns

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January 20213Forty2043

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