The resumption of Ireland’s 2020 Six Nations campaign has been given the green light following confirmation of the proposed temporary 2020 Covid-19 international rugby calendar by the World Rugby Council.
World Rugby’s executive committee last week announced its proposals to resume Test rugby in October following its suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic with temporary global player release from clubs between October 24 to the first weekend in December and a Rugby Championship window between November 7 and the second weekend of December.
The temporary window will allow for the completion of the 2020 men’s and women’s Six Nations Championships on 24 and 31 October, a rest weekend on 7 November and four consecutive rounds of international matches.
There had been reports of strong resistance for the proposals from French and English clubs, which had been conducting separate negotiations for player release with their respective unions but the world governing body appears to have got its way, meaning Andy Farrell’s Ireland can play its outstanding home with Italy, postponed from March 7, and a final-round trip to Paris to play France in the final two weekends of October.
"The global Covid-19 pandemic has been unprecedented in its impact on society and sport and, throughout this process, all parties have sought to deliver the best possible outcome to support the interests of international and club rugby and the players,” World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said in a statement released on Thursday.
"Agreement and approval of this schedule is exciting for players and fans and an important step in supporting our unions in mitigating financial impact and optimising the sport’s return from the pandemic in an equitable way.”
World Rugby said it remained committed to continued dialogue with “all parties, including unions, club competitions and players... regarding the long-term harmonisation of the international calendar for the betterment of all.
“The rescheduling of the domestic, European and international calendars will accommodate the ability for the professional clubs to have access to their star southern hemisphere international players for the completion of the postponed and rescheduled 2019/20 seasons at a time in which they would have ordinarily been on international duty in August and September. The process also reflects the ambition to minimise impact on the EPCR and English Premiership finals matches.” Ireland’s provinces return to action on August 22 for the first of the final two weekends of the Guinness PRO14 regular season before the play-offs begin with semi-finals on September 5 and final on September 12. The Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals, in which Leinster host Saracens and Ulster travel to Toulouse, are due to be played the following weekend, September 19-20 with the semis on September 25-27, and the European final on October 17 or 18.
The different dates for the Northern and Southern Hemisphere windows could, however, mean Munster will not have star South African signings Damian de Allende and RG Snyman available for their opening pool rounds of the 2020-21 Champions Cup. Round one has been scheduled for December 11/12/13, clashing with the end of a shortened Rugby Championship, which will be hosted as a one-off in a single country, New Zealand.