GRASSROOTS rugby union is set for a return early in the new year.

While first teams are considering friendlies following the cancellation of the 2020-21 campaign, more than 125 club sides are dusting off the boots and posts in preparation for the Halbro North West Leagues to get their revised competitions under way.

Among them are Knutsford and Holmes Chapel.

They have been placed in Cluster T alongside Hope Valley, Manchester Village Spartans, Wythenshawe and Macclesfield 4ths, while Chapel’s 2nds are in Cluster M with Carrington, Marple 3rds, Didsbury TH 3rds, Heaton Moor 3rds and Old Bedians 2nds.

Fixtures home and away against each team in the grouping will run from January 16 to May 1.

Also mong them are the Vikings, Wilmslow Rugby Club's second XV.

They have been placed in Cluster F, with fixtures to run from January 23 to May 22.

The Vikings will play 14 rounds of matches, home and away against Birkenhead Park 3rds, Lymm 3rds, Macclesfield 3rds, Northwich 3rds, Firwood Waterloo 3rds, Wirral 3rds and Sandbach 3rds.

Cluster groups have been devised from A to T in order to get rugby up and running again.

Clubs from Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Cumbria and Cheshire are, according to Leagues chairman Fred Swarbrick, ‘chomping at the bit’ to get the season underway.

“A tremendous amount of background work has been carried out in preparation for the restart, especially by our fixtures secretary John Powell, who has spent many hours devising the team clusters and bashing away at the numbers involved," said Swarbrick.

“He needs to be congratulated and thanked for all the time-consuming work that has been done and contributed to by all members of the Leagues committee.

“All our arrangements are being updated regularly as data, government instructions and common sense changes.”

Revised rules to make the game Covid safer have been introduced along the lines of the changes at national level, and there will be no penalties for teams who concede games.

Clubs are being encouraged to keep an eye on the Leagues’ website for up to date information as the date of the big kick-off gets nearer.

Leagues president Peter Rhodes welcomes the news of the restart.

“With the anticipated recommencement of rugby, I wish to join with our chairman in applauding the time and effort put in by all the Hasbro Leagues committee.

“It has been a hard time for clubs in the north west, and I hope that the ability to play rugby again will provide a welcome break from all the restrictions.”

Swarbrick added: “There will be no promotion or relegation in the coming season as the main object is to get players out on the park playing.

"League referees are also equally keen to dust off the dark glasses and white sticks and get started!"

Knutsford and Holmes Chapel fixtures, Cluster T: Jan 16, Holmes Chapel v Knutsford; Jan 23, Macclesfield 4ths v Holmes Chapel; Jan 30, Knutsford v Macclesfield 4ths; Feb 6, Hope Valley v Holmes Chapel; Feb 13, Holmes Chapel v Manchester Village Spartans, Knutsford v Hope Valley; Feb 20, Manchester Village Spartans v Knutsford, Wythenshawe v Holmes Chapel; Feb 27, Knutsford v Wythenshawe; Mar 13, Holmes Chapel v Macclesfield 4ths; Mar 20, Macclesfield 4ths v Knutsford; Mar 27, Holmes Chapel v Hope Valley; Apr 10, Manchester Village Spartans v Holmes Chapel, Hope Valley v Knutsford; Apr 17, Knutsford v Manchester Village Spartans, Holmes Chapel v Wythenshawe; Apr 24, Wythenshawe v Knutsford; May 1, Knutsford v Holmes Chapel.

Wilmslow Vikings fixtures: Jan 23, Macclesfield 3rds away; Jan 30, Northwich 3rds home; Feb 13, Firwood Waterloo 3rds away; Feb 20, Sandbach 3rds away; Feb 27, Wirral 3rds home; Mar 6, Birkenhead Park 3rds away; Mar 20, Lymm 3rds home; Mar 27, Northwich 3rds away; Apr 10, Firwood Waterloo 3rds home; Apr 17, Sandbach 3rds home; Apr 24, Wirral 3rds away; May 8, Birkenhead Park 3rds home; May 15, Lymm 3rds away; May 22, Macclesfield 3rds home.