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IRB to tackle growing problem of Test overkill
Martin Williamson
November 26, 2013
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The International Rugby Board is preparing to try to tackle concerns that the increasingly packed international calendar is taking a heavy toll on players.

Talk is cheap

  • For all the nodding and expressions of concern over the heavy toll the current schedules take on leading players, the reality here is that many boards need all the money they can get and the main way they can get that is to play as much as possible.

    Aside from bums on seats, the lucrative television deals in place demand a stream of high-quality matches. England v Australia sells; Wales v Tonga, as we saw last weekend, doesn't do anything like the same degree.

    If there is an agreed reduction in matches it will be the likes of Argentina, Fiji, Tonga, Italy who find themselves on the outside. Australia won't travel to Europe and not play England or Wales. The fixtures that will be chopped are the lesser ones which are more about growing the sport than the cash.

    Look at cricket. The answer to the packed schedule has been to stop playing the smaller countries. Sadly, the gaps have not been used to rest players,they have just been filled with more 'big' games.
  • Martin Williamson

At the IRB's annual council last week it consulted with unions and agreed a working party to look into the situation. It will include representatives from SANZAR, the Six Nations, the IRB and the International Rugby Players Association.

According to the Times, one proposal involves moving the fractured June tours window back a month to July. This would allow the Super 15 to be played right through rather than have a month break near the end. That would also mean a later start to the European season.

The Australians' match in Cardiff this weekend will be their 15th of the year. But while the unions may support the principle of reducing the burden on top players, it is worth noting the Australian board agreed to the additional fixture to try to tackle its own financial problems.

The paper quoted an IRB spokesman as saying the hope is an agreement can be reached in time for the 2016-17 season. "The group's remit is to consider the strategic issues relating to the international calendar," he said. "And to examine the feasibility of creating an international season calendar that enhances player welfare and optimises the rugby brand."

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