The first signs of an aligned global rugby calendar were offered by the Six Nations and its southern hemisphere equivalent SANZAAR on Friday as the two bodies confirmed they were working closely together to achieve that objective.
Referring to their collective as “the Nations”, the Six Nations, which represents the unions of Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, France, and Italy, and SANZAAR, acting for Rugby Championship participants Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, issued a joint statement which outlined a set of key principles between the parties.
There were no solid details or proposals for what a new and much-needed global calendar may look like, the Nations said: “Following the World Rugby meetings in March this year, SANZAAR and the Six Nations have been working closely over the lockdown period against a set of key principles between the parties, to develop and agree proposals for an aligned global calendar.”
World Rugby’s plans for a Nations Championships, which the game’s governing body proposed last year, were met with resistance by many tier-one unions on both sides of the Equator for a variety of reasons but the Covid-19 pandemic of the last six months has laid bare the fragility of the current model of Test rugby and its relationship with the club game.
Friday’s statement noted a changed outlook and a commitment “to eliminate self-interest”.
Even though there may be different preferences, from the outset the Nations have adopted a mindset that has sought to eliminate self-interest and recognise that the international and club game have shared mutual benefits that if approached and managed correctly can enable both to flourish.
“A further consultation process, in total transparency with unions, clubs, and players, will commence as all parties work towards an aligned global calendar that can deliver a clear and coherent narrative.”
That commitment could see the Six Nations, traditionally scheduled in February and March, and the Rugby Championship, played in August and September, take place in the same international rugby window while the statement also set out provision for the inclusion of Emerging Nations in a new world view.
“The key principles that have underpinned the work to date are;
- Significantly mitigate overlaps between club and country fixtures
- Better aligned player release windows for players, stakeholders, and competitions
- Improve player welfare
- Improve narrative and competitiveness of International and Domestic Competitions around clear windows
- Define clear high-performance pathways for Emerging Nations through the delivery of an internationally more inclusive game
- Evolve competition structures that are underpinned with enhanced commercial offerings
- Restore public faith in the core values of rugby and showing strong collective leadership in the best interests of the game.
“The Nations together with other key stakeholders remain open to shape the options that have been developed in an effort to resolve an issue that has held the game back for many years and are committed to putting rugby on a progressive path.”