But for Knights head coach Steve Boden confirmation the season will at least kick-off gives his team a sense of purpose.
The revamped competition will feature two conferences of six teams, producing 10 rounds of games, before a play-off over two legs between each conference winner will decide the team promoted to the Premiership.
Three-time Champions Cup winners Saracens were relegated to English rugby’s second tier earlier this year following repeated salary cap breaches.
They will be in the same conference as Cornish Pirates, Ampthill, Jersey, London Scottish and Hartpury University, with Doncaster in the other group comprising Ealing Trailfinders, Coventry, Nottingham, Bedford and Richmond.
“It’s a relief now that we’re actually training for something,” said Boden, whose Knights have been back in training for seven weeks. “It’s the unknown that is difficult and sportspeople don’t always cope well with the unknown.
“So it’s nice to know that when we come back into training on January 4 we will have that intensity and something to aim for that for a long time we didn’t think we would have.
“There’s nothing definite in this world right now but it’s a target. It’s something we can get our teeth into.”
On the group they have been placed in, Boden added: “I won’t lie, the fact we’re not going to Penzance to face the Pirates isn’t something I’m heartbroken about. But there are some really good teams in our pool.
“Would we have liked Saracaens? Of course, who wouldn’t? They’re one of the best sides in Europe and anyone would have loved going up against them. And by all accounts they’ve come down to the Championship and are paying it great respect.But Ealing Trailfinders have put a lot of money in and it will be exciting to test ourselves against that standard of competition. As this club knows, there are no easy games in the Championship.”
A statement issued by the RFU read: “Given the possibility of no crowds being allowed for some of the season, and wishing to take Championship rugby to a wider audience, it is hoped to stream as many of the matches as possible.
“As a result of Championship clubs having little or no income for the last nine months, the majority do not have the financial ability to meet the costs of Covid testing required under the elite sport framework. The clubs have chosen not to return to play under adapted laws, and the March start date allows time for clubs to gain clarity from Sport England regarding the Sport Winter Survival Package.
“All Championship clubs are unanimously behind the intended competition as outlined, but require some weeks of full training to make squads ‘match ready’.”
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