World Rugby hits back amid crit­i­cism over ex­tended in­ter­na­tional win­dow

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Char­lie Mor­gan

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.”

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