Int'l Rugby Players' Association Backs Plans To Develop Global Season
Former New Zealand All Blacks player Richie McCaw calls it a "game-changer," but the Int'l Rugby Players' Association is "urging the game's leaders to renew efforts to address player welfare and competition issues by developing integrated seasons in the northern and southern hemispheres," according to Marc Hinton of FAIRFAX NZ NEWS. Under the IRPA proposal, the June test window "would be moved to the last three weeks in July, beginning in 2016, when the competitions structures in both hemispheres will be on the table." Under the plan, formulated after a recent conference in Australia, the northern hemisphere club competitions would start a month later than usual, "enabling more of their domestic competitions to be played after the Christmas break, potentially provide more breathing space for finals series and improving player availability for test matches" (FAIRFAX NZ NEWS, 7/9).
HAND PICKING: REUTERS' Patrick Johnston reported McCaw and Irish flyhalf Jonny Sexton "threw their weight behind a proposal" by the IRPA that would help all test-playing nations to pick their best players. McCaw said that it "was an opportunity to make a significant and beneficial change." He said, "If the game's leaders give this idea, or a variation of it, serious consideration it could be a game-changer for professional rugby. It would be fantastic to address this long standing season structure debate once and for all, the players and the game would be so much better for it" (REUTERS, 7/9). The BBC reported another proposal from the IRPA "would see an end to the month-long break in Super Rugby, the southern hemisphere competition contested by 15 franchises in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa." The IRPA said, "The idea would also see the British and Irish Lions from the 2017 series in New Zealand onwards touring in a clear window after Super Rugby." IRPA Chair Damian Hopley said, "We're in a unique position -- for the first time since rugby went professional, the major Northern and Southern Hemisphere competition and commercial structures are on the table at the same time" (BBC, 7/9).
MOVING FORWARD: ONE SPORT reported IRPA Exec Dir Rob Nichol said that the players "are all extremely motivated to play a constructive role in now getting the key parties together." Nichol said, "We focused on what we felt was feasible and what would make a significant improvement and this integrated global rugby season, moving the June test window to the last three weeks in July, was what emerged" (ONE SPORT, 7/9).