Doncaster Knights discover Championship start date and revised format
A dramatically scaled down season will see teams split into two conferences of six teams and will be made up of just ten competition rounds.
Each club will face each other home and away before the winner of each conference meets in a two-legged promotion play-off final.
Conference A consists of Saracens, Cornish Pirates, Ampthill, Jersey Reds, London Scottish and Hartpury.
The competition had been expected to commence in mid to late January but it has been pushed back at the request of clubs to make sure their players are “match ready” and also to gain more clarity on the Championship’s financial rescue package from the government.
A statement issued by the RFU on behalf of the Championship clubs said: “As a result of Championship clubs having little or no income for the last nine months the majority do not have the financial ability to meet the costs of Covid testing required under the elite sport framework. The clubs have, therefore, been in regular dialogue with the RFU to consider options and solutions to conclude the season.
“The clubs have chosen not to return to play under adapted laws and the March start date allows time for clubs to gain clarity from Sport England regarding the Sport Winter Survival Package before starting pre-season training.
"All Championship clubs are unanimously behind the intended competition as outlined, but require some weeks of full training, to make squads “match ready”, subsequent to the long absence of competitive rugby.
“A small number of Championship clubs have returned to training operating under the elite sport framework and may arrange pre-season friendlies ahead of the restart in early March.
“Given the possibility of no crowds being allowed for some of the season, and wishing to take Championship rugby to a wider audience, it is hoped to stream as many of the matches as possible.”
Knights returned to training last month and are now hoping to build more contact work into their schedules.
They are yet to announce any pre-season friendlies but took part in a training day at Newcastle Falcons last week and the Premiership new boys will visit Castle Park in January.