World Rugby aiming for global season by end of 2016

Fri, 05 Aug 2016 19:28
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NEWS: World Rugby is aiming for a global Rugby Union season unifying the North and South Hemispheres by the end of the year.

"It's been a big challenge. It's been on the agenda for some time but with [President] Bill [Beaumont] we're looking forward to getting it right," World Rugby Vice-President and former Argentina captain Agustin Pichot said in Rio, where Sevens makes its Olympic debut on Saturday.

"It's not going to be perfect, but it is there, we're not going to hide it.

"It's a big task, but we're confident we can achieve something by the end of the year hopefully. Maybe it's not perfect but we'll work hard for that."

An unified global season has long been a sticking point between organisers of the Six Nations in the North and the Rugby Championship in the South.

The Northern Hemisphere plays from August through June, while teams in the Southern Hemisphere take to the paddock from February through November.

Tests between nations are understandably devalued, with the November Test window played in the North favouring the battle-hardened southern sides, while June tours to the Southern Hemisphere traditionally offer more opportunity of a win for teams from the North.

Linked into that is the raft of Southern Hemisphere players who ply their trade in the North, notably the English Premiership and French Top 14 and often on vastly superior salaries than they could get at home. 

Their absence for internationals has left club owners footing their day-to-day existence angry and regularly calling for a global season to ease their woes.

World Rugby president Beaumont said there was already "a global season". 

"It might not be perfect for everybody, but there is a global season.

"It's one of those things that is at the top of everyone's priorities. Certainly Gus [Pichot] and I have been in dialogue for weeks and months about it.

"At the moment, there's probably a few lines in the sand that have been drawn up by certain organisations and by common sense we'll reach some agreement."

Beaumont and Pichot will have to be at their diplomatic best to align Tier One nations' domestic and international calendars. 

Super Rugby has expanded to now accommodate 18 sides (five teams from Australia and New Zealand, six from South Africa, and one each from Argentina and Japan), while the Top 14 season stretches from August right through June.

It all means players are playing more matches with less time to recover from what is becoming an increasingly physically brutal game. 

World Rugby insists rugby players' well-being, with suitable amounts of time given over for recuperation, remains one of their main focuses.

"I think a solution will be found and I think there's a will to find a solution for it," said Beaumont, the former England captain who also skippered the British and Irish Lions, but who retired early after a series of concussions.

Agence France-Presse