Premiership restart: No penalties for selecting 'weaker' squads when season resumes

Bristol Bears v Harlequins
Bristol beat Harlequins on 8 March, the last game before the lockdown interrupted the season

Premiership clubs will not be subject to penalties for fielding under-strength line-ups when rugby resumes on 14 August to complete the remaining nine rounds of fixtures.

With midweek games added in order to complete the schedule, squad depth among the 12 clubs will be tested.

The Premiership final is scheduled for 24 October, 10 weeks after resumption.

"We have to protect some player welfare," the competition's rugby director Phil Winstanley said.

Winstanley played down the idea that naming academy players in squads would incur punishments and added: "We need to leave that flexibility to directors of rugby to select the right team for the right game.

"I think we will see broader squads and looking at the number of players that we have had into stage two training, we have to assume everyone who is in there is capable of playing Premiership rugby.

"We have to look at the positives and I think it will give opportunities to some young players that might not have had otherwise."

Exeter, Northampton, Saracens, Bristol and Leicester are also still involved in European competition, with the quarter-finals of the Champions and Challenge Cups expected to be staged in September.

No concrete date has been set for the start of the 2020-21 Premiership season, although 21 November has been suggested as a possibility.

Another related issue will be the rescheduled Six Nations game between England and Italy, which is currently due to take place the week after the Premiership final.

The Autumn internationals could also add to the heavy workload of leading players and talks are ongoing between Premiership Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and Rugby Players Association.

"It is incumbent on everyone in the game to make sure we manage players appropriately," Winstanley added.

"We will continue to work as three organisations and be collaborative in that sense and come up with a solution because it is in everyone's interest to have a fit playing group."