Rugby’s powerbrokers remain at loggerheads over the shape of the international calendar following the 2019 World Cup despite calls for a compromise before the end of the year.
Re-jigging international matches and domestic competitions to create a seamless global calendar has long been on World Rugby’s agenda but national unions have failed to reach terms with each other and privately-owned clubs in England and France.
New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said there had been little movement on the major sticking points at meetings in Europe this week.
“The reality is no-one has agreed a calendar from 2020 onwards and we’re all working out what we’re going to do in the future without any agreed competition structure,” Tew told New Zealand’s Sunday Star Times.
“If we don’t find a compromise, there’s no calendar. If there’s no calendar there are no games. If there are no games then we’ve all got a big problem.
“We have to find a solution and that’s evident to everybody.”
World Rugby’s incoming chairman Bill Beaumont, who will succeed Bernard Lapasset on July 1, told British media he hoped an accord could be reached by the end of the year.
He said everything, including the Six Nations tournament contested between Europe’s top rugby powers, should be up for negotiation.
But the powerful Six Nations board are adamant the tournament will not be moved from its February-March window despite a two-month break before June internationals start with Southern Hemisphere opponents.
The Southern Hemisphere unions want the June international window moved back until at least July to ensure no disruption to the provincial Super Rugby competition.
France’s Top 14 club championship adds a further complication, with this year’s playoffs extending through until June 24, eating into the international window.
Pan-European competition can add a further nine games to players’ workload but club bosses have been loathe to change the status quo out of commercial concerns.
“We’re all playing more games than we’d like to play because we’ve got to produce the content, so we can get the money, so we can keep the talent,” said Tew.
“The most urgent issue is the calendar, no doubt, but the underlying issue is where does the private equity in the club system sit versus the sanctity of international rugby?
“We’ve just got to keep having those conversations.”