Irish players reject the idea of a condensed Six Nations
Rugby Players Ireland survey finds big majority oppose English-led proposal, writes Ruaidhri O'Connor
Between 75 and 80pc of Irish rugby players are in favour of retaining the Six Nations status quo in the face of a push from England to reduce the Championship window by a week, according to Rugby Players Ireland chairman Omar Hassanein.
Premiership Rugby and the RFU want to take away one of the two fallow weeks in condensing the Six Nations from seven to six weeks from 2020 as part of the new global season.
The IRFU are against the idea and the newly re-branded players' body, formerly IRUPA, have canvassed their members' views.
Leading players in England have spoken out against the concept, while Andrew Trimble said on Tuesday that the reduced recovery time would lead to an increase in injuries.
Yesterday, Johnny Sexton also came out against the idea, in keeping with the vast majority of his playing colleagues.
"I have a personal view and that stems from a player welfare space and that's, yes, it shouldn't be less than seven weeks," Hassanein said at the rebrand launch at Lansdowne RFC.
"At the moment you have two (matches), then a break, then one, then a break, then two… those breaks are essential..
"We surveyed our players in the last few days and the large majority of our players responded, and it was quite unanimous, 75-80pc of those surveyed voted in favour of keeping the seven-week model.
"Others voted for six, I'm not entirely sure of their reasoning… but it was fairly overwhelming.
"So, player welfare but also we've got to look at ourselves and this is the large part of the argument that Philip (Browne) would have, and I would share.
"We would definitely share IRFU sentiments in this: we're a smaller playing body and surely to God a contracted or truncated series is going to disadvantage us, Wales, Italy and Scotland.
"That creates a greater divide surely with England and France."
Sexton concurred with the Australian's sentiments.
"From a player's point of view, the way it is now is very good," he said. "Taking one week out is probably a compromise.
"They are talking about playing it over five or six weeks, which would be tough going. Now, World Cup is the same but during the group stage of a World Cup you might have one or two games depending on the group where you can rotate one or two guys.
"In the last World Cup, we changed up the team totally for Romania so that was essentially a week off, although you could argue that there are no weeks off at a World Cup.
It is different at a Six Nations, isn't it? Every game is full on, pretty intense, so think the way it is now is pretty ideal.
"Trying to cram it down would compromise… you would see a lot more players missing out on games, because a lot of those weeks are about getting ready for the next game. You want to see the best players play, and I think that would be reduced.
"You might have players missing a few games with a small niggle, whereas you mightn't miss any with the way it is now.
"The other argument would be that the best squad would win.
"That probably suits England. They seem to have three or four or five players of the same standard through different positions but it would test our depth as well and we have maybe a little more depth than we would be given credit for."
The re-brand was formally launched by Rugby Players Ireland chairman Rob Kearney and Minister of Sport Patrick O'Donovan, with Ireland coach Joe Schmidt among those in attendance.
IRUPA was launched in 2001 to represent players' interests but last year work began on a new identity in an attempt to "become a more proactive stakeholder in the game" according to Hassanein.