Premiership set to make way for World Cup
January 9, 2012
England Rugby 2015 chief executive Paul Vaughan and Rugby World Cup Limited managing director Mike Miller talk to the media at Twickenham © Getty Images
England Rugby 2015 chief executive Paul Vaughan has hinted that the Aviva Premiership will be suspended during the pool stages of the next World Cup.
English club rugby's premier competition continued throughout last year's World Cup with the scheduling clash drawing scorn from the country's leading clubs who were stripped of their leading players. It was a similar case for the previous tournament in France but a repeat looks unlikely in 2015 with Vaughan revealing that the Premiership is set to take a back seat.
An official decision will follow confirmation of the tournament schedule, expected at the beginning of March, with with a row looming between organisers and Premiership Rugby over the exact date of the start of the World Cup.
"In theory the Premiership can't play during the tournament so if the tournament starts later there is potential for playing a block beforehand and then resuming again later," Vaughan told a press conference at his organisation's new headquarters at Twickenham. "If you remember in France  the professional game was given special dispensation to play during the knock out stages of the tournament as long as it didn't clash with a World Cup game. Potential is there for the Premiership to suspend matches for just the pool stages and then come back in during the knock out stages."
Premiership Rugby are understood to be willing to delay the start of the 2015-16 season until after the World Cup as long as organisers honour the provisional start date of September 4. However, this now appears to be in doubt with "three or four" dates under consideration as organisers attempt to appease the demands of the southern hemisphere season. A Premiership Rugby spokesman said: "We do not want to play the Premiership during the Rugby World Cup and we don't want to play it in August either. If we stick to September 4 then we can accommodate that."
Vaughan, keen to rally support for the tournament in a bid to meet the £80m hosting fee and tournament costs, played down what will be a disjointed Premiership campaign by talking up the impact that the estimated 350,000 visitors could have on rugby throughout the country. "In terms of whether it is of benefit or not to the Premiership, the potential is that we will have a huge number of people in the country who will be looking for things to do between games, particularly in the knock-out stages.
"If you have two quarter-finals in London then there are four teams and more importantly four sets of supporters around town for that period. If there was a quarter-final at Twickenham on the Saturday there is no reason why Quins, London Irish, Saracens and Wasps couldn't play at home on Friday night and we could help drive spectators to all four of those clubs and the same for the rest of the country.
"There is a mutual benefit and you might drive new people into those clubs. It is the biggest showcase we have as a sport and if we can use it in anyway possible to benefit other parts of the game rather than just the tournament then we will do our utmost to do just that."
The venues for the tournament - set to include football stadia such as Old Trafford, the Emirates Stadium and Anfield - will be confirmed once the tournament dates are finalised with the pool draw to follow in November.
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