World Rugby hits back amid criticism over extended international window
Rugby defended its extension of this year’s international window last night, stressing that the decision had been “consultative, fair and entirely based on compromise”, amid criticism from French clubs.
Earlier in the day, World Rugby confirmed that “regulation nine”, regarding player release, would be amended for 2020 in order to stage a greater number of Tests between October and December.
In the northern hemisphere, the Six Nations will be completed between Oct 24 and 31 before a rest week and four further Test weekends, finishing on the first weekend of December.
In the southern hemisphere, there is now space to play the Rugby Championship, usually held in August and September. New Zealand has been asked to host the competition, which would finish on the second weekend of December.
Labelling the measure as a way “to mitigate the unprecedented impact of Covid-19 on global rugby” as unions struggle with the financial fallout of the pandemic, World Rugby said it had sought to “minimise impact” on the European finals – set for the weekend Oct 1618 – and the Premiership final on Oct 24. England will not play their final Six Nations game, against Italy, until Oct 31.
In April, Ligue Nationale de Rugby cancelled the 2019-20 Top 14 season, to begin the new campaign in September. Because of that, its clubs will be more adversely affected by an extension to regulation nine, and the umbrella organisation for professional rugby in France hit back last night.
“It is an unbalanced, unilateral decision that does not take into account the League’s many compromise proposals,” said the LNR in a statement. “On many occasions, we have sought to establish a real dialogue with the aim to come to an agreement that would preserve the health of the professional clubs while showing solidarity with the federations. We therefore disagree with this decision.”
LNR, which has been invited to sit on a dedicated working group in planning for the 2021 global season, did not confirm reports that it has entered legal proceedings against World Rugby. It did reinforce its position that it would be willing to extend to five weeks of availability for the French national team, but no further.
Given the logistical challenges of Argentina and South Africa travelling to New Zealand to feature in the Rugby Championship, there is a chance that LNR’s worst fears may not materialise.
World Rugby, disappointed by the reaction, said: “The process of determining the temporary calendar has been consultative, fair and entirely based on compromise.”