Plans for a Global Season for Rugby

Rugby Scrum

As the Lions Tour came to an end, one or two articles about plans for a ‘global season’ for Rugby went a little unnoticed.

The International Rugby Players’ Association (IRPA) met in Sydney last week and have made a proposal to move the June internationals and adopt an integrated global season, with the aim of improving player welfare.

The IRPA want to move the June test window until the last three weeks of July, which would allow Super Rugby to be completed without a break. The Northern Hemisphere seasons would start slightly later in October and continue further into the summer.

IRPA chairman Damian Hopley explained: ‘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. This is the ideal time to seriously consider change that will secure player welfare initiatives.’

Richie McCaw has voiced his approval, stating ‘If the Game’s leaders give this idea, or a variation of it, serious consideration it could be a game-changer for professional rugby. 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.’

What do you think of the suggestion? Would it impact your enjoyment of Rugby? How would it affect Rugby fans in different parts of the world?

19 thoughts on “Plans for a Global Season for Rugby

  1. What’s the plan for the six nations. As long as that doesn’t move then the idea sounds good.

    1. Why would you object to moving the 6 Nations, Brighty? (Genuine Q, not trolling)

      A major move might be a mistake but a week here or there wouldn’t be too bad, no? Or am I missing something?

      1. Think shifting it back 1 month would be a good idea. The pitches are pretty much at their worst in Feb as they haven’t seen any sun in 3 months. The paddocks we saw some of the games played on this year were a disgrace. If it stays where it is then artificial pitches should be considered. Be interesting to see how Sarries and the Blues go through on theirs through the winter months.

  2. So we move our game to allow the game in the southern hemisphere to go smoother? No thank you.

    1. This proposal is also being supported by Northern Hemisphere players as well. I think I read Sexton endorsing it. I don’t fully understand it but I don’t think its any more for the South than the North.

  3. OK I get SH guys benefit from a shorter super rugby season, but I’m struggling to see what this actually means for the NH guys. If it’s the same number of domestic, European and international fixtures where does the improvement in player welfare come from?

    We get a small benefit for the 2017 Lions tour as it wouldn’t be running in parallel with Super Rugby. I can’t see anything else though.

    Has anyone found any detail on what this calendar would look like?

  4. The Sexton comment is here (with some more details):

    My understanding is that the NH season will start in Oct and go through to end-June (rather than Sept-end May). In terms of numbers of games played it won’t make a lot of difference, but this is something of a separate issue (between the clubs and countries).

    It potentially means more NH rugby played in the summer months, but the mental weather of late – and more importantly the changes in the way the game is played – mean this is less of an issue than it used to be.

    It’s true that this will benefit the SH players more, but since the international windows are currently geared around the NH season, why not just move our season a little – especially if it will make little or no difference to NH players?

  5. Sounds good to me. It doesn’t negatively effect anyone.

    Positives being that there should be more time to get ready for tours. I believe the idea being that you have more than 24 hours to play a domestic final and then get on a Lions tour, or national tour.

    No change to AIs, 6N or WC. Also means WC effect less of our domestic season which is good.

    Also means that Super rugby teams can play their best available team for all future Lions tours.

    Why would we not want to do it?

  6. Sounds good by me. What about moving the 6N a bit later to get better weather (theoretically) as well?

  7. From a NH perspective the only minor negative is it means the AIs start 4 or 5 weeks into the season, with the squads announced a couple of weeks before hand it’s very little time to judge current form. Other than that I can’t think of any negatives. As there are plenty of benefits then I hope it does happen.

    The are far more benefits from SH than NH though. They:
    – Reduce their super rugby overload
    – Have a logical season that goes Super Rugby, Summer/Winter Tests, Rugby Championship, Autumn/Spring Internationals.

    So they have improved player welfare and a season that makes far more sense.

    For NH it looks like a few commercial benefits of reduced overlaps with world cups (this must be a big win as club revenues must take a hit in this period) and a slightly more attractive schedule for the back end of the season.

    Our hotchpotch domestic, european and international fixture list continues, from what I can work out the gap between domestic finals and summer tests won’t increase. So the next Lions tour would face the same issues in that regard (just one month later). If Sexton is still in France (and playing in the latter stages of the season) this won’t help him.

    There are far more pros and cons, so it would be a shame if it didn’t occur. I hope they take a full look at the structure of the NH season at the same time though along with taking some steps to improve player welfare for the NH guys as well. One step at a time I guess.

  8. This is a good idea, but I don’t think it addresses the problem of the northern hemisphere players (specifically English guys) playing too much rugby.

    Often times the top Irish/Welsh/Scots guys don’t play week in week out in the Rabo – they still play too many games over a season, but not to my mind as many as the England guys. The French clubs have a slight buffer of having those massive squads (particularly at Toulon, Clermont, Racing etc.), so Eng need to ensure they are at the forefront of this change.

    No one will really want to change their domestic seasons, so my only suggestion is to chop one of the international tours, either the Summer Tours or AI’s. Just play one of them and alternate annually either side of the line. It’s only about 3 or 4 games less, but would make a reasonable difference, what with training camps and would take a little intensity out etc.

    Also ditch the LV Cup, let the players have rest weekends, surely they can’t bring in that much £ for the clubs involved. All that in the North would mean that an international player at a HC club in Eng. would play a max of 22 league games, 6 HC games, 5 6N games and 3/4 SH tests, which feels more manageable. Obviously it is likely to be less than that and probably would be significantly less for Celtic players.

    1. Or maybe make the summer tours development tours, a bit like the one to Argentina. That worked well for England, but we do have larger playing resources. Didn’t work so well for Wales.

      I have to say that I am seriously worried about English players burning out. It’s amazing how well some players do when coming back from an injury layoff. They seem to be recharged which to my mind does indicate an excess of rugby.

      1. i think we will begin to see players resting a bit more.

        i know that england did have a policy where EPS players were limited for the numbers of club minutes they played in a season. havent heard much of it recently, so it may have been scrapped.

        it was quite a good idea though. either the england stars would be consistently subbed off after about 50mins, or a club could play them for a full 80 in all games, but then rest them for 2-3 matches.

        not only does this help with building depth, but it also keeps players fresh. with the depth england have, its a policy that they should definitely either re-instigate, or enforce more harshly.

        here are a few area with players where it could work as an example.
        Quins have Robshaw, but Easter, Guest, Wallace, Faasavalu, Trayfoot and Clifford can provide good cover.

        Saints have Wood. Manoa, Dowson, Clarke, Van Velse, Oakley, Nutley can all provide top cover too.

        Sarries have Farrell. Hodgson and Goode can cover 10, as could Mordt. Guys like Ransom and Wyles can cover other back positions, allowing a guy like Goode to play a bit at 10.

        Wasps have Launchbury. Wentzel, Palmer and Cannon provide good options to cover.

        in the second row, tigers have: Parling, Slater, Kitchener, Mafi, Deacon, Andrew. a few play backrow too.
        then the backrow has: waldrom, thorpe, salvi, brett deacon, croft and crane

        i could go on, but i think you get the point.
        subbing guys off, or simply resting them for the odd match will keep them fresh, and benefit both club and country. not to mention the benefits of developing depth and giving academy players exposure to top class rugby.

        1. There’s a couple of aspects to it:
          – Welfare (injuries, longevity of career)
          – Being as good as you can be as an athlete.

          The French giant squads and rotation seem to work well for player welfare and career longevity. (Can’t believe it’s coincidence that the likes of Wilkinson and Sheridan were both very injury prone are extending their careers in France)

          The sheer length of the French season can’t help players be at their ‘peak’ though. For the French internationals they are playing 45 weeks of the year, just don’t see it’s possible to attain and sustain your highest potential as an athlete over that sort of duration.

          As well as managing the workloads through numbers of minutes played over a season I would like to see players that are involved in a summer tour miss the first few games of a season so they they can still have:
          i) A rest
          ii) A proper pre-season conditioning program (i.e. the only time in the year they get to do a real block of training)

          1. The 45 weeks is a good point. This all includes the training as well, being in the gym and out on the paddock, the extra ‘secondary miles’ that build must surely have an affect.

            It would be interesting to see some data when injuries are most likely to occur i.e. in games (say after 60 mins) and after how much overall accrued playing time. Obviously there is an element of luck involved, but i’m sure some clever little analyst somewhere has got some.

  9. of course Richie “i dont play the first 3-5 rounds of super rugby” McCaw would be backing this! plus he is on sabbatical at the moment, and he is commenting on a long season.

    Richie should have a run in the top 14, 16 domestic games (followed by quarter final for non-top 2 finishers, then a semi final and the final) and all the european rugby. Try playing for the ABs with all that on his plate.

    These southern fairies need to toughen up a bit! ;)

    in all seriousness though, i dont see much of a benefit for the north, other than the fact that the schedule is better for the lions (a once in every 4 years affair). playing later in the year doesnt change the amount played. and all it will do is mean they start in slightly worse weather. i recall most players seem to enjoy starting in September, when the weather is still pretty nice.

  10. Traditionally the Cricket Chaps did not like it overlapping as players used to play both sports.

    I guess it will work for the professionals but are amateur clubs expected to follow suit?

    If so back to the old Summer sports suffering? Cricket, Tennis Rugby League.

    My Boys play Union in the Winter and then move to League for the Summer. Could Cock things up a bit.

    1. Could be interesting for the youth set ups as well. There’s already a real overlap with rugby cricket and football (The 3 main sports my son plays). As an example my son played his last summer football tournament last sunday and they start pre season training next week. Madness. He’s in the middle of his cricket season. And then rugby starts!

      Sorry realise that I have gone slightly off topic but the season for all sports comes down from pro to amateur to youth and has an impact on all.

  11. I would like to see a global season for the professionals, and I would love to see a world club champion ship that this would enable.

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