Revolutionary proposals for rugby’s brave new world include shifting the Six Nations from its winter habitat and starting the European club season in December.
The Rugby Paper can reveal that pushing the start of the Six Nations back from February to April is being considered as part of the answer to a problem which has defied solution for more than 20 years – the global season.
The plan revolves around the southern hemisphere’s Rugby Championship, scheduled to kick off in August, being rescheduled to run at the same time as the Six Nations.
Such a move is seen by World Rugby as essential in reducing the damaging conflict between the club and international game.
The project under discussion is based on clearing the decks in October and November for inter-hemisphere Tests to be staged over a nine-week period. Players would then take a rest in preparation for the launch of the European club season over Christmas and New Year.
“We are working on a model for the club game starting sometime in December,’’ a leading club executive told The Rugby Paper. “The proposal is for a 29-30 week season which would take us through to July with a break for the Six Nations to be played in April and finished in mid-May.
Autumn internationals: October-November
Six Nations: April-May
Rugby Championship: April-May
Club and European games: December-July
“That schedule is gaining a lot of traction with clubs in the Gallagher Premiership, the PRO14 and the Top 14.
“It’s the one aspect of the global season which most people agree on. We know we have a big opportunity to build a better future.
“There are so many moving parts to be fitted in but there’s a growing determination that we really do have to get it right this time. The clubs must be given every chance to thrive, otherwise the international game will wither on the vine.
“There is a feeling among the clubs that the unions’ agenda is to take more control by playing ever more international matches.
“The danger is that some clubs will end up with two squads of players – internationals and non- internationals.
“The long-term effect would be disastrous. It would destroy the fabric of the community game as represented by the clubs.
“With two international windows, one for the Autumn Tests, the other for the Six Nations, the debate now is about whether the club season should start in December. With a bit of luck, we hope to have it all thrashed out within the next month.
“We could end up if not with a summer sport, then a part-summer one.’’
With the Six Nations fixtures arranged for next year, any change would only become effective from 2022, along with the new TV deal.
Some experts say there is a growing likelihood of no Test rugby before next year. As forecast in The Rugby Paper weeks ago, the All Blacks’ Tests against Wales and Scotland in June and July are due to be formally postponed within the next week.
They will hope to rearrange them in October which raises all kinds of issues over social distancing and on-field testing.
The NZRFU are considering a sawn-off version of Super Rugby featuring a series of derby matches with their five franchises.
The Wallabies, in dire financial straits before Covid-19, face pay cuts of more than 60 per cent.
In an attempt to broker a return to action, Australia players’ union leader Justin Harrison is to hold talks with his New Zealand counterpart, Rob Nichol.
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