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IRB: No plans for global overhaul

Sun, 23 Jun 2013 11:22
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It just didn't work
Quote-end

There are no current moves afoot to establish a global calendar for the Rugby Union season, a senior IRB official told AFP , amid complaints that it is too long.

Brett Gosper, the IRB's Chief Executive Officer, said it was a matter of complex negotiation for which no one currently had the "heart".

Many players such as All Blacks great Dan Carter have backed calls to overhaul global rugby's playing calendar, saying the off-season is too short under the existing schedule and risks player burnout.

Carter says that a combination of international duties and the Super 15 season meant he had missed pre-season training every year for a decade.

The playmaker argued the Southern Hemisphere's eight week off-season in December-January should be doubled to 16 weeks, allowing players to properly recuperate from the physical demands of a high-impact sport.

His concerns have been echoed by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and New Zealand Rugby Players Association chief Rob Nichol, with Hansen blaming the demanding season for the departure of a number of All Backs to Japan.

However, all previous attempts by the IRB to improve coordination of the global calendar have failed due to the demands of various interests in the game.

Traditionalists do not want showpiece events such as the Six Nations moved, Europe's powerful clubs oppose further disruption of their season, while the Southern and Northern Hemispheres each want Test windows tailored to their needs.

Gosper, talking to AFP ahead of the June 28 to 30 IRB Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow, was phlegmatic in his response.

"Before I arrived there were lots of working parties that met to try to reconcile a global calendar," the Australian said.

"It just didn't work, they could not get an agreement from all parties on what was possible in terms of the global calendar.

"I don't say that's not a bad objective now and we should be still working towards one. But certainly there doesn't seem to be a lot of heart for people to get into a room and talk about that."

But Gosper said talks could one day resume should there be interest.

"At some point, that subject will come back and we will attempt to try again if we get a sense that some of the parties are willing to," he told AFP.

"It's a negotiation and it's a very complex one, a very crowded calendar with a lot of disparate interests around the world, it's not an easy task."

Gosper, who spent the bulk of his playing career with the Paris-based Racing club, was also reticent to comment on the movement of players overseas, saying it was a personally-driven choice that home unions had to face up to.

"These players obviously must have the freedom of choice to ply their trade wherever they see fit," he said.

"They have the interest of their families and earnings at heart. They have to trade off: to reconcile their desire to play for their country with earning the living they want to earn.

"It's up to the unions themselves to provide a stronger, compelling argument that they should remain within the fold of their national team as best as they can.

"It's very attractive to play in France, with the money being offered and given the atmosphere of the stadiums. It's a great attraction for players."

AFP

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