Monday 24 October 2016

RFU unwilling to move Six Nations or autumn Test series for globally-aligned season

Duncan Bech

Published 26/07/2016 | 09:24

Ian Ritchie, the RFU chief executive
Ian Ritchie, the RFU chief executive

Hopes of establishing a more globally-aligned season have receded after the Rugby Football Union indicated it would be unwilling to move the RBS 6 Nations or autumn schedule.

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New World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont aims to synchronise the northern and southern hemisphere calendars, insisting that to make room the Six Nations may have to be staged in April.

His plans have already hit a major stumbling block, however, after RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie hinted that Twickenham would oppose any changes to the bulwarks of the international season in Europe.

If the Six Nations and November series are to remain in their current slots, only the June tours would be left for negotiation.

"The Six Nations, as far as the date in the calendar is concerned, works well," Ritchie told BBC Radio 4.

"As far as we're concerned we have a great TV deal and we have stadia that are filled for every game. Why would you want to change something that works really well? So I can't see there being any significant move in that.

"And I think as well that the autumn internationals work terribly well for us as well. It's early days yet, but it's going to be an interesting few months on the global calendar discussions."

The current agreement over international fixtures expires after the 2019 World Cup and the current stance of the sport's richest union points to few changes being made to the existing schedule.

Adding to the gloom gathering over plans to harmonise the hemispheres is the new £200million deal that extends until 2024 agreed on Monday by the RFU and the Aviva Premiership clubs.

"There have been a number of preliminary discussions about the global season. We've obviously had some talks about how we see the English situation and it's early days," Ritchie said.

"It's a priority moving on. You've always got to have some elements of flexibility in an eight-year deal."

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