Players push for global season
July 9, 2013
IRPA chairman Damian Hopley chairman believes this is the "ideal time to seriously consider change" © PA Photos
The sport's leading players are spearheading a fresh push to shake up the rugby calendar and create a global rugby season.
The International Rugby Players' Association (IRPA) - the worldwide representative body for professional rugby players - has tabled a proposal that will see the June international window shifted until the last three weeks of July beginning in 2016.
IRPA's global season proposal
The move would see the northern hemisphere domestic season start a month later in October and run until June with the Six Nations and November internationals remaining in their current place in the calendar. The change would also see the mid-season Super Rugby break scrapped with the battle for southern hemisphere supremacy reaching a climax before the new July international window with the Rugby Championship following.
"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," IRPA chairman Damian Hopley explained in a statement issued following a meeting in Australia. "This is the ideal time to seriously consider change that will secure player welfare initiatives."
IRPA is now asking SANZAR, Premiership Rugby, the Ligue Nationale de Rugby, The Celtic League, IRB and the Six Nations to "come together and open their minds to the potential benefits of change, and what that may look like".
The proposal has the full support of the leading players including All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. "If the Game's leaders give this idea, or a variation of it, serious consideration it could be a game-changer for professional rugby," McCaw said. "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."
IRPA Executive Director Rob Nichol said the players are all extremely motivated to play a constructive role in now getting the key parties together. "This is a rare opportunity for greater alignment of the season structures in the two hemispheres" said Nichol "and it is essential we use these discussions to achieve positive change for players, supporters and commercial partners.
"We focused on what we felt was feasible and what would make a significant improvement and this integrated global rugby season, moving the June test window to the last three weeks in July, was what emerged. We will now focus on getting the key parties together in the coming weeks to progress discussions urgently."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
"The loudest cheer at a rugby game, away from social media gimmicks, pumping music and pyrotechnics will always be for a try." Tom Hamilton on the Twickenham atmosphere
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column
The latest Monday Maul looks at the hectic final weekend, the Lions hangover, the superb Mike Brown and the 'selfie'
"At the crux of this England team is a lack of fear, they are not afraid to throw playbooks out of the window." Tom Hamilton reports from Twickenham