Six Nations could be played again in full this autumn as rugby considers Covid-19 options
Ireland may get an earlier-than-expected chance to avenge their humiliating defeat to England at Twickenham if plans to play an emergency Six Nations in October and November come to fruition.
After running off the four remaining matches of the incomplete campaign in September, cash-strapped unions are considering starting from scratch again a month later.
Ireland's fixtures against Italy and France are outstanding, as is England's trip to Rome and Wales' home match against Scotland which all fell victim to the Covid-19 shutdown.
Andy Farrell's men remain in contention to win the tournament if they can win in Dublin and Paris.
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With the summer tours unlikely to go ahead and the November internationals now at risk, rugby officials are willing to look at options to rescue lost revenue and stave off huge financial losses.
According to 'The Rugby Paper', a full Six Nations across eight weeks in October and November is one such option, while a home-and-away tournament before and after Christmas is another on the table.
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont has conceded it is possible that no international rugby will take place in 2020 due to restrictions on travel and public gatherings, but unions and clubs are desperate to play again in order to generate revenue.
Unions are looking at ways of making the cross-hemisphere tours work, but it looks increasingly like travel bans could scupper those matches.
The IRFU have stated that they will “have a problem” financially if the shutdown extends beyond September and the union will have been alarmed by Health Minister Simon Harris’s assertion that “it is highly unlikely we’re going to be seeing very large kind of mass gatherings this year” in yesterday’s Sunday Independent.
It has emerged that the €345m investment in the tournament by Luxembourg-based investment firm CVC Capital is set to be delayed as a result of the pandemic.
Although the firm’s planned purchase of a €138m stake in the Guinness PRO14 looks set to be approved in the coming weeks to go with their initial investment in the English Premiership, a report in the ‘Financial Times’ indicates the group’s biggest investment is being held up by the unions who are trying to establish the true cost of the shut-down.
It is still hoped the deal for 14 per cent of the annual tournament will be completed this year, with CVC already in talks with the South African and New Zealand unions as well as World Rugby about future plans.
The impact of the pandemic on the global game continues to be felt, with Rugby Australia agreeing an 83 per cent wage reduction deal over the weekend that will see top earners suffer a 60 per cent cut.
Meanwhile, reports in South Africa suggest their union chief executive Jurie Roux is being lined up as the next chief executive of World Rugby to replace Australian Brett Gosper.
Roux is close to both candidates for the chairmanship of the governing body and, if he does take over, will be charged with finding a way of aligning the global season and implementing the Nations Cup which both Bill Beaumont and Agustin Pichot favour.
“I’m pretty confident that there will be a variation of the Nations Cup,” Beaumont told the BBC.
“I think there’s a real spirit of collaboration between the north and the south, looking at what we can do with our playing windows and international windows that can generate more funds in another competition. You have to look at the calendar – the Lions tour every four years, the Rugby World Cup every four years. It’s a balancing act.
“In the past people have been quite protective about what they have got, what we are looking at now this is probably a reality check in the sport – are we doing things correctly? You are pretty foolish if you don’t learn lessons.”