World Rugby has reached an agreement over a new global rugby union calendar, with Bill Beaumont, chairman of the sport’s global governing body, stating the deal will deliver “certainty and sustainability”.
The calendar, which will run from 2020 to 2032, includes plans to relocate the current June international window to the first three weeks of July, in order to allow the Super Rugby southern hemisphere club contest to conclude prior to national team games.
In addition, the November window will move forward by one week, while the Rugby World Cup showpiece national team event will now begin a week earlier, in the second week of September.
World Rugby has also pledged to increase the number of Test matches between tier-one and tier-two nations by at least 39 per cent, with a goal of 110 games in the 12-year calendar period. This includes a provision for tier one nations to tour the Pacific Islands, Japan, Canada, the US, Georgia and Romania. England and France have already agreed to tour the Pacific Islands.
Emerging nations will be integrated into both the July and November windows, with the World Rugby rankings to be established after the next two World Cups. The rankings will decide which tier-two teams will be invited to play in matches against the world’s leading rugby nations.
Other features of the new calendar include a reduction in the number of games during tours to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa immediately after a World Cup year. The decision to introduce a cap of two games has been agreed in partnership with the IRPA as part of an effort to enhance player welfare.
The agreement follows a year of negotiations between unions, the game’s major professional leagues and the IRPA. Altering international and domestic competition schedules to create a global calendar has long been on the agenda of the sport’s global governing body, which has faced the challenge of attempting to marry the interests of national unions and privately-held clubs.
“Agreement on an optimised global calendar that provides certainty and sustainability over the decade beyond Rugby World Cup 2019 represents an historic milestone for the global game,” Beaumont said.
“But more than that, this agreement has player welfare and equity at heart, driving certainty and opportunities for emerging rugby powers and laying the foundations for a more compelling and competitive international game, which is great for unions, players and fans.
“This process has been complex and there was no silver bullet. Compromise has been achieved by all stakeholders in the spirit of collaboration and I would like to thank my union and professional league colleagues for their full contribution and commitment to reaching an agreement that will ultimately benefit the whole game.”
IRPA chief executive Rob Nichol added: “Through collaboration, rugby has delivered a framework that promotes certainty for the international game moving forward. The agreement provides an improved platform for the various professional competitions to structure themselves in a way that will help them succeed while also managing the demands on the players involved appropriately. The players, competitions and the game will be better for it.”