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Rugby union heading towards global resolution in calendar talks

Rugby union’s administrators are closing in on an agreement to form a new global calendar in a move that could allow the introduction of a world club championship, according to multiple reports.

Altering international and domestic competition schedules to create a global calendar has long been on the agenda of the sport’s global governing body World Rugby, which has faced the challenge of attempting to marry the interests of national unions and privately-held clubs.

UK broadcaster the BBC has now said a deal is close for a new calendar to be introduced after Japan’s staging of the 2019 World Cup. It is understood the changes will result in fewer international matches, with summer tours set to be scrapped at least once per four-year cycle. This will typically occur in the year after a World Cup to allow additional recovery time for players.

According to The Times newspaper, the English Premiership; Pro 12, which comprises Irish, Scottish, Welsh and Italian clubs; and the French Top 14 leagues are likely to finish in June, aligning with the Super Rugby season. This will enable the top European clubs and their southern hemisphere counterparts to clash once every four years.

It is understood that the traditional dates for the World Cup and the Six Nations national team tournaments will not be altered, along with the British and Irish Lions tours. The BBC said that emerging nations such as Japan and the United States will benefit from an increase in matches against tier-one teams.

It added that newly-appointed World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont and vice-chairman Agustin Pichot have been leading talks, with the changes expected to be rubber-stamped at the governing body’s next council meeting at the end of November.

“Discussions are positive, strong momentum is being generated and all stakeholders are focused on delivering a calendar that is to the benefit of the whole game by the end of the year,” a World Rugby spokesperson told The Times.