The English Rugby Football Union’s bid to cut the Six Nations Championship from a seven to a six-week schedule has been denied after France stood with the four other competing nations against the proposal at a board meeting earlier this week, according to multiple reports.
The RFU has been pushing to allow England and France to sit out of the first weekend of play, with all teams competing in the second weekend, and England and France to play each other on the third weekend, which is a rest week under the current format.
Currently, there are five rounds played over seven weeks with two rest periods. UK newspaper The Guardian said France stood with Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Italy, who are all in favour of the present arrangement, at a Six Nations board meeting. The meeting was held to vote on the RFU’s proposal to shorten the tournament, which England lost by five votes to one.
A successful vote needed all nations to agree to the six-week schedule.
Back in March, Ian Ritchie, who was replaced as RFU chief executive by Steve Brown this month, said: “We believe it is perfectly right to have a six-week competition as opposed to a seven-week one. We think it would improve it. It would narrow the off-periods, help with the broader narrative. We think it is a good route.”
However, several senior England players have been vocal about their opposition to the six-week plan.
England and Harlequins prop Joe Marler told The Guardian: “If we lost a rest week – I think it’s ridiculous. They can slap me on the wrist for that all they want but it’s such a physical tournament, the game itself is getting more and more physical every week.”