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Leinster chief brands global season plans 'naive' as Lions keep window

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Dawson appeared to confirm that next season’s Champions Cup will proceed with 24 teams and one less round of games. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Dawson appeared to confirm that next season’s Champions Cup will proceed with 24 teams and one less round of games. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Dawson appeared to confirm that next season’s Champions Cup will proceed with 24 teams and one less round of games. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

After much toing and froing over a global schedule, it appears rugby's status quo will continue for at least another season.

World Rugby are due to announce the schedule for international rugby this autumn in the coming days, while they also hope to find agreement on an aligned calendar from 2020/'21 onwards before their June 30 deadline.

That looks set to run aground after clubs in France and England baulked at the prospect of playing through the summer, an idea that was also viewed unfavourably by the IRFU.

At one point it looked like the Lions series might move to September and October as part of a global shift, but there is increasing confidence that it will proceed as planned in July and August 2021.

Changes could be put in place for the start of the 2021/'22 season that could see the 2022 July window shift to October with the top six teams from the Six Nations and Rugby Championship playing off against each other. However, clubs want to keep existing windows in place fearing a financial loss from any change.

And they look set to reject the idea of starting in December or January and finishing in September.

Mistake

Those plans were presented to league chiefs from France (LNR) and England's Premiership Rugby at a meeting last month and Leinster chief executive Mick Dawson says it was a mistake not to involve them in the process from the start.

"There's an awful lot of talk about the global season and that is undecided yet. Some of the discussions were a little naive to start with, not to include LNR and Premiership Rugby, who employ more than 1,000 professional players, in the early discussions was naive," he said.

"It's undecided yet, but if I was a betting man I think it will end up with something closer to the status quo -that seems to be how it's panning out at the moment."

Dawson appeared to confirm that next season's Champions Cup will proceed with 24 teams and one fewer round of games. That will see eight teams from the three leagues qualify, meaning Connacht will be involved.

"The competition from EPCR will be different, it's going from 20 teams to 24. That's a one-off, we'll have one less weekend. It's an eight-weekend competition instead of a nine-week competition," he told supporters.

World Rugby's announcement will further cement rugby's schedule on the back of PRO14 and EPCR announcing their outstanding fixtures and season start dates in the last two weeks.

It is expected that the outstanding Six Nations matches will be played in the last two weeks of October, but it is not yet known what format November will take.

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