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IRPAInternational players have renewed their calls to develop a global rugby season by moving the June Test window to the end of July.

The International Rugby Players’ Association (IRPA) – the worldwide representative body for professional rugby players – held a conference in Australia recently and considered the possibility of moving the June Test match window until the last three weeks of July, beginning in 2016.

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The move would see Northern Hemisphere club competitions starting a month later, enabling more of their domestic competitions to be played after the Christmas break, potentially providing more breathing space for their respective finals series’ and improving player availability for Test matches.

In the South the change could do away with Super Rugby’s month-long break and allow players an extended¬† pre-season, something that has been sought for years.

“We’re in a unique position – for the first time since rugby went professional, the major Northern and Southern Hemisphere competition and commercial structures are on the table at the same time,” IRPA Chairman Damian Hopley explained.¬† “This is the ideal time to seriously consider change that will secure player welfare initiatives.”

The 2016 timing is important, as the 2015 World Cup will put significant pressure on the season structures of Northern Hemisphere leagues. Mid-week rounds have already been mooted, putting pressure on spectator numbers, club revenues and negatively impacting on player welfare.

The idea would also see the British and Irish Lions from the 2017 series in New Zealand onwards touring in a clear window after Super Rugby, with an improved ability to deliver full strength mid-week games. Existing windows for World Cup, Six Nations, Rugby Championship, the November Tests and provincial competitions would not require any change.

IRPA is now asking SANZAR, Premiership Rugby, the French clubs, The Celtic League, IRB and the Six Nations to come together and open their minds to the potential benefits of change, and what that may look like.

Not surprisingly, the proposal is gaining support from professional players.

“If the game’s leaders give this idea, or a variation of it, serious consideration it could be a game-changer for professional rugby,” World Cup-winning All Black captain Richie McCaw said. “It would be fantastic to address this long standing season structure debate once and for all, the players and the game would be so much better for it.”

McCaw’s sentiments are fully endorsed by Ireland and Lions playmaker Johnny Sexton, who is confident a breakthrough can be found through meaningful dialogue.

“We see this initiative as beneficial for the global game” Sexton said. “From a player perspective, we urge our leaders to get in a room together, take a positive attitude and see what can be done.”

There are also potential spin-offs for Tier Two rugby nations. Planning for their fixtures in the test windows could be done well in advance, enhancing their ability to access their players.

Premiership Rugby are believed to be supportive of the proposal and preliminary discussions have already started with some National Unions.

IRPA Executive Director Rob Nichol said the players are all extremely motivated to play a constructive role in now getting the key parties together.

“This is a rare opportunity for greater alignment of the season structures in the two Hemispheres, and it is essential we use these discussions to achieve positive change for players, supporters and commercial partners.

“We focused on what we felt was feasible and what would make a significant improvement and this integrated global rugby season, moving the June Test window to the last three weeks in July, was what emerged.

“We will now focus on getting the key parties together in the coming weeks to progress discussions urgently,” he said.

5 Responses to Global Season still on the cards

  • 1

    The proposed change is a relative small adjustment with huge benefits for all
    I pray for once rugby and it’s players would be put first

  • 2

    @ Gena_ZA:
    It makes SO MUCH sense, BUT, the IRB and the likes of SANZAR and more specifically SARU don’t seem to have too much of it (sense that is.)

    As a wise man once said, “common sense is not that common”.

  • 3

    Scary what the powers that be make the rugby players go through. One of the most physically demanding sports out there, and they expect the players to play so many games. Us fans are also to blame, as we just lap up what is given to us.

  • 4

    3 @ Lion4ever:
    Agree, just way too much rugby. Players getting injured far too young these days and too many of them are lost to the sport because of that.

    Super Rugby should be split into two. 1st division and a 2nd division. 10 teams in each division. We play each other only once and the top 4 in each division goes into semi final and finals. Who ends last in the first division gets relegated the next year into 2nd division. The team that wins the final in 2nd division gets promoted to 1st division the following year. That way less rugby. We will only have 9 games to play and the teams that make the semi and final only 11 games to play. Compare that to what we have now. 16 games to be played. After that playoffs, then semi and final. Way, way too much rugby. Bodies can’t take it. Also between that we had incoming tours to play the Boks. RC and eoyt. Crazy schedule. Players don’t want it. Supporters don’t either. We want less injuries and strength against strength. Less rugby played equals less injuries and players having a longer rugby career.

  • 5

    I personally only want to see home and away derby games in the CC not as well in the Super Rugby. As it takes away the excitement of CC.

    Format has to change. Also a global Season would work. Not what I have read above. They want players to have many months off, but play the same amount of rugby. Nah, we need to work out less games that way the players will get more time off. 3 months off at once does not work. Bodies needs every few months to have a few weeks off and then a bigger break over Dec, Jan and Feb.


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