WORLD RUGBY HAS unveiled a new global calendar for 2020 onwards which will include shifting the June Test window back to July to allow the Super Rugby season to run uninterrupted.
Ever since rugby union became a fully professional sport shortly after the 1995 World Cup in South Africa, there has been talk of a ‘global season’ in a bid to get greater harmony between club and international fixtures.
But with the 15-a-side code traditionally a winter sport in both the northern and southern hemispheres, all attempts to streamline the match programme have so far foundered, despite often repeated concerns about player welfare and burn-out.
The shifting of the June window will “enhance preparation for July tests for all unions”, World Rugby argued.
Touring in that month often saw top players in France miss out as they, with no central contracts, still had club obligations at home.
Apart from its change to the June window, World Rugby also moved the November window forward one week so it now takes in the first three weeks of the month and cemented the Rugby World Cup within the calendar, kicking off one week earlier in the second week of September.
The agreement on “long-term calendar harmony” also includes leading or ‘tier one’ nation tours to the second-level Pacific Islands, Japan, Canada, USA, Georgia and Romania, as well as a “rotation principle that includes emerging rugby powers (which) will deliver greater schedule equity, promoting more meaningful, compelling fixtures and supporting World Rugby’s objective to increase the competitiveness of the global game”.
– Certainty and sustainability –
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said: “Agreement on an optimised global calendar that provides certainty and sustainability over the decade beyond Rugby World Cup 2019 represents an historic milestone for the global game.”
The former England captain, who has made reform of the world calendar a key objective of his time at the head of rugby union’s global governing body, added: “But more than that, this agreement has player welfare and equity at heart, driving certainty and opportunities for emerging rugby powers and laying the foundations for a more compelling and competitive international game, which is great for unions, players and fans.
“This process has been complex and there was no silver bullet… I would like to thank my union, professional league and club colleagues for their full contribution and commitment to reaching an agreement that will ultimately benefit the whole game.”
Rob Nicholl, the chief executive of the International Rugby Players’ Association, backed the new set-up by saying: “We welcome the agreement of a calendar and appreciate the genuine consideration given to the player welfare needs of the world’s top players throughout the process.”
Meanwhile South Africa Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said moving the June window to July would bring “continuity and coherence to our domestic calendar” and that changes allowing tournaments to run uninterrupted without switches between them would be “welcomed by all in the southern hemisphere”.
“It will also allow touring teams to better prepare between the end of their domestic seasons and the start of southern hemisphere tours,” he added.
– © AFP 2017
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