France Refuses To Back Rugby Football Union's Six Nations Plan
England has been defeated in its "bid to reduce the Six Nations Championship from a seven-week tournament to six after France joined the other nations in voting against the proposal" at a Six Nations board meeting, according to Owen Slot of the LONDON TIMES. The Rugby Football Union "had been coupled with France in a desire to squeeze the tournament by losing one of the rest weekends" while the other four nations were all opposed to the plan. However, the French Rugby Federation (FFR) "performed an about-turn and left England isolated" as it lost the vote 5-1. The RFU has "long been lobbying for a move to six weeks," even though its players have been "vocally opposed to the change." The RFU's position for the move to six weeks is "largely due to pressure" from Premiership Rugby clubs. However, without France supporting its case, "it looks a desperate long shot for the RFU to deliver for the clubs the shorter tournament that they want." The RFU "must regain the support of France if it is to satisfy the demands" of the clubs. The plan, which has been discussed by the RFU's Professional Game Board committee, would mean England and France missing the opening weekend of the Six Nations Championship and playing each other instead in week three, which is normally a rest week (LONDON TIMES, 9/20). In London, Chris Jones reported RFU insiders insisted "there is not support for the move" from the Rugby Players' Association and "no talks have been held" with its French counterpart over the issue. RPA CEO Damian Hopley believes a move to a shorter Six Nations would put an "unacceptable workload" on int'l players and is "adamant his members have not been consulted over the plan." The next RFU PGB meeting is in November. Hopley said, "The players do not support shortening the Six Nations. Not one England player I have spoken to believes this is a good idea" (EVENING STANDARD, 9/20).