Irish rugby players have voted by a huge majority to reject the proposed shortening of the Six Nations, writes Stephen Barry.
The English RFU and Premiership clubs want the tournament run-off in five weeks, rather than the current seven, to free up two weekends for domestic and European games.
However, 93% of players who voted in the Rugby Players Ireland survey rejected such a move.
“The intensity of the Six Nations Championship is like no other competition I have ever played in,” said Ireland captain Rory Best, who is in camp with the British and Irish Lions squad at Carton House.
“If it were to take place over a five or six-week period, players who pick up niggles during the tournament would struggle to return while those who take to the field every week would be fatigued to such an extent that it would undoubtedly impact on their involvement with their clubs once the tournament finishes.”
Best believes the competition could be spoiled for spectators, with players missing more games.
“While we now have plenty of guys who can play their part, the bonus point system dictates that every game counts more than ever before.
“As one of the best supported competitions in the rugby calendar, every paying fan will expect to see the strongest sides week-in, week-out.
“It is important that the integrity of the Six Nations, from a spectator’s perspective, remains intact as far as possible.”