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Home and away Six Nations on the cards as RFU chief says global season could be in place for 2020/21

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RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney. Photo: Steven Paston/PA

RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney. Photo: Steven Paston/PA

RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney. Photo: Steven Paston/PA

The prospect of a home and away Six Nations taking place before and after Christmas remains a very real as RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney became the second union big-wig to speak about the idea in 24 hours.

Echoing comments from his Italian equivalent, Sweeney said that the tournament could be expanded if teams from the Southern Hemisphere are unable to travel north for the November internationals.

Sweeney, who has been part of the panel discussing the global season, says an aligned calendar could be achieved in time for next season; meaning the start of the campaign would be pushed back until January at the earliest.

This year's Six Nations sits unfinished after being interrupted by the Covid-19 shutdown, with Ireland's games against France and Italy still unplayed along with Italy v England and Wales v Scotland.

"The preference from both the north and the south is that the original programme will go ahead," Sweeney said.

"But of course that's driven a lot by international travel restrictions so both (the north and south) are developing back-up contingency plans.

"There are two or three different options we could go ahead with that feature more northern hemisphere competition around that autumn window.

"One of them if you'd play a Six Nations tournament in that autumn that would combine with fixtures next year and for the first time ever you'd have home and away. It's possible. Every (plan) has pros and cons to it and those are being evaluated."

Sweeney still hopes to have fans in attendance when international rugby resumes, warning of the dire financial consequences of players playing in empty stadiums.

The RFU are working on social distancing measures for Twickenham in the hope they can welcome some fans at least.

"Playing behind closed doors - for us - is not much different to the games being cancelled," he said.

"By the time you fire up the stadium, pay for the players and the costs associated with preparation time and camps, when you play behind closed doors for us, there is not a huge difference between that and the games not taking place.

"Having attendance and having fans turning up is key.

"If things progress as they seem to be progressing now, hopefully we will see crowds at Twickenham in October and November."

Sweeney added that the calendar changes could be in place by next season.

"If we can all find agreement, it is not impossible that we could see a new calendar for the 2020-2021 season," he said.

"There may be a few more hurdles, and it might take a little bit longer, but I would like to believe we could get it done for 2020-2021.

"It's a big wish, and there are all sorts of hurdles in the way of that, but that is not impossible to do."

Meanwhile, former Leinster centre Ben Te'o has moved back to the National Rugby League in Australia.

The New Zealand born power-house, who played for England and the Lions after leaving Ireland, will play for the Brisbane Broncos.

Online Editors