The Shute Shield is targeting a July 25 kick-off for its 2020 competition in a format that will see club rugby played deep into November.

Sydney Rugby Union President Philip Parsons said in a video message on Sunday that the competition was aiming to start on July 25, just over three months after its regular scheduled start of April 4.

Parsons outlined a plan for a 12-team, 16-round competition that would culminate in a three-week finals series.

That timeline wold see a Shute Shield Grand Final potentially played on Saturday November 14, under lights.

It’s not clear exactly which teams would make up the 12, but it is expected that Penrith could be making a return to the competition while a Newcastle team has also been reportedly floated in recent weeks.

“We are looking at a notional start date of 25th of July,” he said.

“We will be working with the public health authorities around that date. We certainly will be taking their direction and of course it’ll be subject to return to play protocols and public health directions.

“Planning on 12 clubs, seven teams, we are looking at a grand final date around the 14th of November which will be under lights, working through ground availability.

“That’s the positive news – the date could change, there variations on all that but certainly the clubs will be preparing for that date.”

Currently, the NSW government has not indicated any plans to ease lockdown restrictions but the number and rate of coronavirus cases has been slowing.

The Shute Shield news comes days after the Queensland Rugby Union announced its plans for community rugby to return on July 1, with training resuming on June 1.

July is also been pencilled in as the month that professional rugby could return, pending lockdown restrictions.

Parsons also took the opportunity to discourage internet trolls after a week in which Rugby AU CEO Raelene Castle, the subject of much online abuse, resigned.

“Every time someone pulls the game down by airing grievances publicly and negative comments on Facebook pages and publicly pulling our game down, we’re not better for it, we’re worse,” he said.

“Every time that happens sponsor takes another step towards the door or they’re reluctant to sponsor, parents become more reluctant to have kids play rugby union, it’s really unhelpful. “Some of the comments about Raelene is appalling. I wish it would stop.

“No doubt that the game nationally is struggling, we’re not in denial about that but we’ll focus on what we’ll do well and that’s working with out districts and our volunteers and our sponsors and our players and we’ll try and keep out of it all.”

Parsons welcomed moves from 10 former Wallabies captains to call for a review into Australian rugby, saying he eagerly anticipated some tangible outcomes from their calls for change,

“It’s great to have those 10 captains coming out and talking to their commitment to community rugby…Making that public statement about making changes to support community rugby across Australia, it’s a big call,” he said.

“They made that publicly and they’re accountable now, that shows strength and courage.

“I look forward to seeing the outcomes of their public statements.

“They’re accountable, they accept that challenge, they’re quite open about it and I look forward to it.”