English rugby’s 2019/20 season finally came to an end last week, and to maintain the confusion around almost everything that’s happened this year, the conclusion came in a match originally due last last March.
Victory over Italy in the re-arranged game in front of empty stands in Rome provided a Six Nations title as a climax to a professional season which officially kicked off more than a year ago and put the icing on the cake for Ben Youngs who marked the occasion of his 100th England cap with two tries and a man-of-the-match award.
Even with a couple of hiccups along the way in its final weeks, it has taken an incredible effort for English rugby to reach the finish line.
But that’s it, the season is finally complete. It is now officially so ‘last season’.
This weekend is a blank one, but a new season begins next week with the Autumn Nations Cup and then the Gallagher Premiership gets back in motion seven days later.
With fans shut out of venues, the distance can make it easy to forget all of the work that has gone into getting this far. And it has not been easy.
It’s not easy for the players, who finally got back into action in August after months of inactivity and now face a new-look 2020/21 following the longest-ever season with the shortest-ever close-season; it’s not easy for the coaches with so many plates spinning at once; and it’s not easy for us, the supporters who are being kept at arm’s length by the Covid restrictions. It's not easy, either, for our nearest and dearest who have to put up with those frustrations.
It is difficult enough for our body-clocks to absorb a new start in the depths of November rather than shirt-sleeve September without also having to sit at home to monitor the action.
Tigers fans have still not had the opportunity to officially welcome Steve Borthwick, or for that matter Nemani Nadolo and other newcomers. We’ve not been able to show those who’ve been around a while that we’re still with them all the way either.
For the moment, support is spiritual rather than physical. Passing positive vibes is all we can do. Starting next Saturday.