(Reuters) - Eleven teams in England's second-tier Championship have agreed to invest in mandatory COVID-19 testing, paving the way for the new season to begin on March 6, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) said on Monday.
The cost of COVID-19 testing had remained an obstacle to the start of the season, with clubs concerned that they might not be able to afford weekly testing despite availing of loans from the British government as part of their 'winter survival package'.
"Following loan assurances from the government, 11 Clubs have elected to invest in COVID testing under the elite sport guidance framework to allow a start to the season on the weekend of March 6," the RFU said in a statement.
Saracens, winners of four top-flight Premiership titles in the past six seasons, were relegated to the Championship in October after breaching salary cap rules.
They will begin their promotion bid away at Cornish Pirates on March 6.
London Scottish will not participate this season after rejecting the government loan but they will return for the following campaign.
Teams will play each other home or away. A two-leg play off final between the top two teams will be held to determine promotion to the Premiership for the 2021-22 season.
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(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)