Would a global rugby season be best for everyone?

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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

12 thoughts on “Would a global rugby season be best for everyone?

  1. This really needs to happen; I don’t mind too much how but it needs to.

    All of this “international window” problems can all be solved, to the benefit of fans and players alike.

    Not sure exactly how it will work but I am sure it can be worked out easy enough.

  2. Very interested to see how this would work.

    Assuming that the global domestic season would not be the standard NH winter, Sept – April, I wonder where the cut off would be between top level and domestic games.

    Given the pyramidal structure at least in England and France, and the fact that the Welsh domestic teams do feed the Regional sides, this would seem to be the biggest obstacle.

    I am not against a global season at all, i just struggle to see sensible logistics, unless the pro game breaks completely with the amateur (and semi-pro) game. That is something, in true Luddite style, I definitely would not want to see.

    1. Could the amateur and semi-pro teams not follow the professional game in their move?

      I can’t see how it would effect a local team to play from October to June as suggested?

      Be interesting to see how this unfolds, as I don’t think it’ll be straight forward.

      1. Of course, that is an option. But realistically, at a local level, can it work that kids, and and adults play Rugby and Cricket during the same season?

        I realise of course, that not every rugby player plays cricket, but the point is that I believe as a casual level there are plenty of other opportunities for activities during the summer months. Assuming of course that we do cover the summer months.

          1. I don’t think they will move it to the summer. I think it will just shuffle slightly to allow for different international windows.

            The article says that the European season would run from October to June, so only a shift by one month. The summer internationals move from June to the end of July, and most problems are solved.

            Easy right?

            1. The cricket one is a good example though – my son has already given up cricket as we have struggled to balance it with rugby (imo cricket was getting out if it’s box and running winter net sessions, winter indoor leagues etc. but I’m biased cos I like RL more than I like cricket). So any move could jeopardize junior/amateur involvement.

              Also, as a man in his 5th decade (2nd time today I’ve felt the need to say that), the idea of the 6Ns not starting on a gloriously crisp and blue skied winters day makes me a little teary. They need to ignore people like me I think or they’ll never move anything.

              1. Juniors playing two sports will always be an issue. I always had problems myself.

                Rugby pre-season started in August and went through until May, and cricket started in March/April (winter nets began in january), and went through until september.

                Any kid playing two sports will eventually have to pick (luckily for me I was pretty useless at cricket so it was an easy decision).

                I can’t see how moving the Rugby season back one month will really make much difference here?

  3. It sounds like a great idea and if people want it to happen they can make it happen.

    Even all the broadcasters can be made to agree to some commonality globally. After all, they don’t own the commodity, the rugby unions do. Without rugby they would lose some of their income stream so I don’t see how they can influence that much. Plus, people are more likely to tune in if they know that all the big names are going to play, not be injured or playing a domestic game.

    Also happy or the amateur game to follow suit. Our end of season tours always fall around my girlfriend’s birthday, which doesn’t go down too well. Change the end of season – problem solved!

  4. Good sounding idea. Would relish it personally, but how could it work with there being talk of too much rugger being played?

    Would the 6Ns & SH Championship structure be abandoned? And on what basis? Home & away like the SH or like the 6N alt basis?

    Need some working out, but here’s hoping.

  5. I think a global season would be great, but one thing I really, really, hope they don’t do is to schedule the Rugby Championship and 6N at the same time. If that happens, then the NH interest in the RC and vice-versa will seriously drop and that could be seriously damaging for the globalization of the game. As long as they don’t do that, though, I’d probably be satisfied and it would probably make sense.

  6. Picked my son up from hockey practice tonight. In rugby season, and football season. Cricket nets start soon. Every sport is trying to extend it’s season and the coaches all get narky when boys are playing other sports rather than training out of season with them. Eventually the parents can’t juggle any further and the children stop enjoying the game. And that’s before changing a sporting season!

    I’m merely saying that what’s right for the global game may not be right for the juniors, who have to tie into the senior season, which has to dovetail with the professional season. And there is a massive problem as who are the international players of tomorrow. Just saying!

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