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England fans return to Twickenham for France clash

England fans return to Twickenham for France clash
© Reuters
International rugby in the UK took place in front of a crowd for the first time since March.

Fans were back inside Twickenham for the first time in nine months on Sunday for the Autumn Nations Cup Final between England and France.

With London placed in tier two by the Government when lockdown ended on Wednesday, it meant 2,000 spectators were able to be welcomed back into grounds in the capital in addition to other areas of the country in tiers two and one.

Football clubs were able to host supporters again in midweek and on Saturday, it was the turn of rugby when Worcester saw up to 2,000 fans enter Sixways to witness their Gallagher Premiership clash with Bath, which the visitors won 33-17.

More teams from the Premier League and English Football League were able to play with the backing of a crowd on Saturday with both West Ham against Manchester United and Chelsea's clash with Leeds played out in front of spectators.

And Sunday afternoon saw international sport in the UK played again with fans present when 2,000 made their way to Twickenham for England's crunch match with France.

It was the first time Eddie Jones' side had played with supporters in the stands since the 33-30 success over Wales in the Six Nations at HQ on March 7.

On that occasion an attendance of 81,522 was recorded but the number was much lower at Twickenham this time as the return of fans at live sporting events moves at a slow pace.

Former Manchester United defender and co-owner of Salford, Gary Neville, questioned that approach during an interview on Sophy Ridge on Sunday.

England fans queue up to enter Twickenham ahead of the Autumn Nations Cup Final with France
England fans queue up to enter Twickenham ahead of the Autumn Nations Cup Final with France (Adam Davy/PA)

He told Sky News: "I do think this idea that Salford City, if they were to come into tier two in two weeks, could have 2,000, but Manchester United who've got a 75,000 stadium could have 2,000 is just madness.

"Surely Manchester United could house more than 2,000 people safely and socially distance?

"At Salford we might only be able to hold 1,200. So again it's this blanket approach, this lack of bespoke approach to different situations."

While the tier system prevented fans being in attendance for West Brom's match with Crystal Palace at the Hawthorns or Sheffield United's home fixture with Leicester on Sunday, supporters in the capital prepared to go to games for the first time.

Spurs were ready to welcome up to 2,000 fans into the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for the visit of Arsenal and the women's side hosted spectators again for their Women's Super League with Brighton at the Hive.

Chelsea's match with West Ham at 12.30pm was the first women's top flight fixture to be played with a crowd since 734 supporters witnessed Arsenal thrash the Hammers 9-1 at Chigwell Construction Stadium in September.

Elsewhere, Liverpool fans were gearing up to step foot inside Anfield for the first time since they were crowned Premier League champions in July.

Jurgen Klopp's side have not played a match with a crowd since they lost 3-2 at home to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League on March 11.

An attendance of 52,267 was recorded that night at Anfield and while the figure will be much lower on Sunday evening, the Reds boss is excited to have supporters back in the stands.

"I hope 2,000 people can be really influential, that they really help. First and foremost, they have to enjoy the game," Klopp said.

"They just should be happy that they are in the stadium again. I'm very happy that we have them there and let's make the best of it."


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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp pictured on November 22, 2020
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