Bath Supremo Bruce Craig has called for an alignment in the way the global rugby season is structured in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
As one of the main architects behind the newly formed Rugby Champions Cup, Craig must have some confidence in his vision which separates club and international rugby throughout the season.
In a manifesto outlined to The Rugby Paper, Craig has called for:
– The existing June and November Test windows to be scrapped and merged into a new six-week international window from mid-August to late-September, enabling outgoing and incoming tours to be confined within a single block.
– The Six Nations to be slashed from seven to six weeks in the second window of international fixtures.
– The Northern Hemisphere club rugby season to be played in two blocks – October to mid-February and April to June – thereby ensuring no overlaps between domestic and international rugby during the two Test match windows.
– Individual player programmes (IPP) to be devised for England’s elite players, ensuring welfare standards are improved.
Craig believes World Cups and Lions tours could be accommodated within the August to September window, thereby lessening the often debilitating side-effects those four-yearly events inflict on Europe’s domestic scene.
The idea would be for the Super Rugby season to play out between February and July with no break for internationals, whilst the Rugby Championship would run through October and November.
Craig said: “Season structure is fundamental because a lot of the problems are created by not having a sensible global season. What we have is based on history and is a remnant of the bygone amateur and touring days.
“If we were to have a blank piece of paper, we certainly wouldn’t have the fragmented nature of the international and club scene in the North and South. Anyone sensible outside rugby would say it doesn’t make sense.
“There should be a separation of the club and international calendar. There’s no way the club game should be devalued by playing on the same day as Test matches, so one of the key things is to have different windows in which to do things.
“Nothing in the Northern Hemisphere is based on logic, it’s purely based on historical blocks like the Six Nations, which everyone says is the Holy Grail which makes international rugby all its money, and the June and November blocks.
“But when you look at it from a league point of view, that’s where the problems arise. In England and France we have very strong league structures, so there needs to be a more sensible approach which will allow us to create the strongest national teams, as well as having the best leagues and clubs in the world.
“June is a very important part of that because an England tour at the end of a really tough season is very hard on players. It should be scrapped and an extended international block later in the year would be the best solution for English rugby.
“Instead of having three international blocks, we should retract the Six Nations to six weeks, merge June and November and have a six-week international block in August and September, which would give our guys a chance for some rest.
“That would leave league rugby starting in October through to February, then a break for the Six Nations and another league block in April, May and June. You then have two coherent blocks of Test rugby and two coherent blocks of domestic rugby.”
On how player welfare would be managed, Craig said: “The way professional rugby will go in future is you’ll need individual player programmes.
“You’re looking at 600 professional players in the Premiership, of which around 35 are in England’s elite squad, so if there’s an integrated model of professional rugby and the international and club game is working together, we could manage IPPs and make sure those players are managed throughout the year in the right way.”
Read the full story at The Rugby Paper.