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International rugby to restart in October

Wales wing George North loses the ball as he tries to score a try in the first half during the England v Wales Six Nations match (Photo by Tom Jenkins/Getty Images)

The World Rugby Council has approved dates for a temporary international calendar in 2020, paving the way for the Six Nations to resume in October.

The Council has green-lit the adjustment to accommodate the release of international players for revised 2020 windows. World Rugby said the temporary change has been given the go-ahead to mitigate for the impact of Covid-19 on the sport around the world.

The window for the temporary global player release is October 24 to the first weekend of December, with the temporary Rugby Championship window to run from November 7 to the second weekend of December.

The window will allow for the completion of the men’s and women’s Six Nations on October 24 and 31, a rest weekend on November 7, and then four consecutive rounds of international matches. The decision has been taken following extensive dialogue between the sport’s major stakeholders.

Four matches from this year’s men’s Six Nations were postponed back in the spring following the Covid-19 outbreak. England, Scotland, France and Wales have one match left to play, with Ireland and Italy having two. England sits top of the men’s standings and is also one win away from winning the women’s event.

The Rugby Championship will take place over a reduced six-week period, with Sanzaar, the umbrella body of the South African, New Zealand, Australian and Argentinian rugby unions, having asked New Zealand to host.

Sanzaar had already identified New Zealand as the preferred destination for the rescheduled Rugby Championship. The tournament had been scheduled for August 8 to September 27 and was due to kick off with Australia vs New Zealand in Melbourne but new dates have now been outlined.

World Rugby said the rescheduling of the domestic, European and international calendars will accommodate the ability for clubs to have access to star southern hemisphere internationals for the completion of the postponed and rescheduled 2019-20 seasons at a time when they would have ordinarily been on international duty in August and September.

World Rugby’s decision has come in for criticism from Ligue National de Rugby (LNR), organiser of French club competitions Top 14 and Pro D2. LNR has issued a formal notice to World Rugby and accused the sport’s global governing body of changing the international calendar “without any real consultation with the professional leagues and in particular the LNR”, the AFP news agency reports.

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said: “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.

“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.

“These matches will be greatly anticipated by all, and I would like to thank unions, the international and club competitions and players for their input and the fans for their patience as we have sought to get international rugby back up and running.”