Allianz, the insurance giant, are to be the new sponsors of the Premier 15s. So the tournament acquires the new name: Allianz Premier 15s
The news will bring delight and relief in equal measure to the RFU, the clubs, players and supporters, though those supporters will remain love-locked-out. That hateful phrase ‘Behind closed doors’ will apply for the first nine rounds.
All the complicated details covering this new arrangements are released a mere five days before battle-stations. 10 October remains the start-date. A fixture list has been published. And, most complex of all, games will conform to the new adapted laws, in line with Covid-19 caution and government guidelines. A review will then decide whether to continue unchanged or revert to normal laws.
Some of the details: matches will last 2 x 35 minutes. When we read the adjustments to well-known laws, we understand why. There will be infinitely fewer scrums and mauls, so play will be far more continuous than ever before. A forward pass will give a free-kick to the opposition. Driven mauls from line-outs permitted only in the 22.
One effect will be to reduce the importance of scrum superiority. All the forwards will need to be super fit and super fast. The Sevens players returning to the long format may well find themselves at an advantage in these opening stages.
Even with the 10-minute reduction in playing time, players’ fitness will be tested to the full.
As the largest insurance company in the world, Allianz can confidently be expected to offer a much more positive profile than their predecessors. But we can’t be sure how hands-on they would wish to be. Their headquarters are in Munich, but branches spread across the globe.
What remains unclear is the company’s ongoing relationship with Saracens. When the club was found guilty of improper conduct, their sponsors announced they would cease their connection at the end of the 2019-20 season.
There is no reference to media coverage in the RFU statement. It’s quite possible that negotiations are currently under way. But if not, the RFU might consider how the video coverage of every game – already established in the Prem 15s regulations – might be made available to a wider public.
First Round (10 October)
Bristol Bears v Wasps – postponed to 31st October
Gloucester-Hartpury v Exeter Chiefs
Harlequins v DMPD Sharks
Sale Sharks v Loughborough Lightning
Saracens v Worcester Warriors