Rugby

English Premiership unhappy with 'unilateral' calendar changes

AFP-Jiji

English Premiership chiefs have criticised World Rugby's "unilateral decision" to stage test matches in December.

The global governing body announced Wednesday a revised international calendar in response to the coronavirus pandemic that is set to see the Southern Hemisphere's delayed Rugby Championship taking place from Nov. 7-Dec. 12.

That would leave leading English clubs without many of their overseas stars for one week of domestic fixtures and the first weekend of the European Champions Cup, with next season's Premiership scheduled to start on November 20.

Premiership teams are already set to be without their England internationals for much of October and November, with the end of this year's postponed Six Nations followed by a schedule of tests involving Europe's elite countries.

A Premiership Rugby statement issued Thursday urged the global governing body to rethink its position.

"In response to yesterday's statement from World Rugby in which a temporary international calendar for 2020 has been recommended, Premiership Rugby urges further discussion to find a calendar solution for the global game as a whole to allow the 2020 season to be played out," read the statement.

"Exceptional circumstances have been created for sport by the COVID-19 pandemic, and discussions between the Premiership and the RFU (England's Rugby Football Union) on how to accommodate the needs of the international and club game in England during the global pandemic have been progressing positively.

"Premiership Rugby now urges World Rugby to restart the global discussions to unify the Unions and professional leagues and agree to a temporary plan that works for all.

"We regret World Rugby's unilateral decision to impose changes in the international calendar on our clubs through a temporary amendment to regulation nine, when progress is being made with the RFU to reach a compromise for the benefit of all."

The delayed 2019-20 Premiership season will restart on August 14, with the 2020-21 campaign commencing on Nov. 20 in a bid to be completed ahead of the British and Irish Lions' tour of South Africa in July and August of next year.

"Premiership Rugby and its clubs have already offered compromises and agreed to stretch the current international window from four weekends to six, offering a solution that would allow the completion of the Six Nations tournament, accommodate an extra game with England vs. Barbarians, and allow for the four international matches in the November window," the statement added.

"The Premiership has also agreed to start the 2020-21 Premiership Rugby season during the 2020 international window, on Nov. 20, to allow the campaign to be completed before next summer's Lions tour.

"So a further temporary amendment to regulation nine, which governs player release for test matches, for weekends in December, would have a further impact on the Premiership and needs to be avoided."

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