The IRB have announced that they are investigating the possibility of a global season for rugby, that would hopefully align international and domestic competitions to finally put an end to the club vs country row.
The news broke recently that England’s first test against New Zealand next summer would clash with the Premiership Final, meaning any England players involved in the domestic season’s showpiece event would miss that opening game of the tour. Wales, Ireland, Scotland and France all face similar situations with their tours and the RaboDirect and Top 14 finals. And of course last summer, the opening Lions fixture clashed with the domestic finals, meaning several Lions missed it, along with the first week of training – immediately putting them on the back foot.
The move to a July window for international games would ensure none of these clashes would happen.
According to Telegraph Sport, the IRB has approved the creation of a working group to examine “the feasibility of creating an international season calendar”, including proposals from the IRPA (International Rugby Players Association) for the Northern Hemisphere domestic season to run from October to June, and any summer tours to take place in the last three weeks of July.
The group will comprise representatives from each of the unions of the Six Nations competitors, as well as those from the four The Rugby Championship participants. Representatives from the IRPA will also be present, and the group will make its recommendations before the IRB council next November.
The move comes in the wake of many observers calling for a more structured season, to look out for player welfare, give more preparation time for test matches and improve what is currently a disjointed domestic schedule that sees many teams shorn of their top stars for large swathes of the season.
Should the proposal be approved, any changes would come into effect for the 2015-2016 season, after the World Cup in England. This could be of great benefit for the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand, giving the squad more time to prepare and be together. It would also mean that the tour would fall outside of the Super Rugby season, allowing New Zealand’s provinces to field full strength sides and avoid a repeat of the farcical fixtures against several second string sides in Australia this summer.
The last proposal for such a global season came in 2008 and fell down in the face of some considerable obstacles – not least broadcasting rights and all the money that comes with them – but IRB chief executive Brett Gosper is confident this effort can be more successful.
“There are opinions out there that some adjustments to the season are possible so we are looking to see what could be an optimum season and if it is possible,” he told Telegraph Sport.
“Hopefully the group will find some common ground that will allow us to make some adjustments that will create better player welfare without undermining any of the properties and events.
“We would want a calendar that doesn’t have issues where there is a final one week before a team has to play. Any movement we get towards it being better is going to be great.”
What do you think? Is a global rugby season possible, and would it be best for everyone?
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images