An integrated global rugby union calendar is moving closer following recent talks between the Six Nations and Sanzaar.
Discussions between the two organisations have focused on calibrating international windows in the northern and southern hemispheres to minimise conflicts between club and national team fixtures.
UK newspaper The Guardian reported that the Six Nations and Sanzaar hope to agree on a new calendar by early July. Moving the Six Nations from its traditional February-March schedule to a March-April schedule is among the changes being discussed.
Media reports say Covid-19 has brought new urgency to the discussions between the two parties. An attempt last year to align the Six Nations and Sanzaar’s Rugby Championship into a single structure fell apart. Three years ago, a summit in San Francisco also failed to produce significant change.
The organisations issued a statement on the renewed talks late last week. “Following the World Rugby meetings in March this year, Sanzaar and the Six Nations have been working closely over the lockdown period against a set of key principles between the parties to develop and agree on proposals for an aligned global calendar,” the statement said.
The organisations said they had been working to seven principles in attempting to align the calendars:
- Significantly mitigate overlaps between club and country fixtures;
- Better aligned player release windows for players, stakeholders and competitions;
- Improve player welfare;
- Improve the narrative and competitiveness of international and domestic competitions around clear windows;
- Define clear high-performance pathways for ’emerging nations’ through the delivery of an internationally more inclusive game;
- Evolve competition structures that are underpinned with enhanced commercial offerings;
- Restore public faith in the core values of rugby and showing strong collective leadership in the best interests of the game.
Responding to the statement, world governing body World Rugby said it welcomed the commitment from the Six Nations and Sanzaar for closer collaboration to ensure a more harmonious global calendar for all stakeholders.
“World Rugby looks forward to further close collaboration with all parties to reach the best outcome for the global game. A decision on any adjustment to the current global calendar and its international release windows will be considered and taken by the World Rugby Council,” WR said.