The prospect of a ground-breaking global calendar remains alive after a crucial World Rugby meeting, but rugby chiefs remain at odds over how to schedule the rest of 2020.
Key figures from across the global game discussed the sport’s short and long-term future in a video call on Monday.
While there was agreement on the need for a revamped schedule in the future, clubs and unions have yet to finalise how the remainder of the current year will look following the coronavirus pandemic.
More talks will take place as a matter of urgency, with a World Rugby council meeting scheduled for the end of June.
“All parties recognise the need to agree a compromise solution that enables both disrupted professional club and international competitions to be completed this year,” said a World Rugby statement.
The English Premiership and Pro 14 both plan to restart their leagues in August, while Champions Cup organisers are also looking to complete their tournaments over the course of September and October.
However, with summer tours postponed and the 2020 Six Nations unfinished, unions hope to stage Test matches in October and as usual in November, which could lead to a number of fixture clashes.
World Rugby said it would look to balance up the demands of the club and the international game in further talks.
“In the absence of full alignment, further information sharing and discussion will be undertaken with all parties,” added the statement.
‘Reform is necessary’
However while the short-term picture is unclear, there was widespread acceptance in the meeting that a “meaningful reform of the international calendar is necessary” on a longer-term basis.
Replacing the summer tour window in July and holding a longer block of international matches in the autumn is firmly under discussion.
World Rugby says a new calendar would “revitalise the global game” and “deliver much-needed alignment” between international and club rugby, with fewer overlaps between the two.
However, while the calendar working group has been meeting regularly since March, the English and French clubs have not been directly part of discussions, with both bodies dissatisfied at their exclusion, although the Premiership clubs have been represented by RFU boss Bill Sweeney.
The leagues are also concerned about how the changes would affect the club game, with a shift to playing through the summer months required, while it is also believed the current crisis at Premiership Rugby, who are at war with their players’ union over pay cuts, has only served to muddy the waters.
Other sticking points are over player welfare, with player unions seeking assurances they would have properly managed rest periods as part of the new calendar.
“There was commitment to further detailed commercial and player welfare modelling in full collaboration with the club game to better assess the viability and attractiveness, for all parties, of a potential new ongoing global release period of October/November from 2021, replacing the July window,” said the World Rugby statement.
The game’s governing body also hopes a new global calendar will provide better opportunities and “meaningful pathways” for emerging nations, while a revamped women’s schedule, which does not clash with the men’s, is also on the table.