New Club v Country Row Threatens English and French Rugby Union

Premiership Rugby looks to be on a collision course with World Rugby and the Rugby Football Union, with the league demanding a say in the shaping of the international calendar in 2021.

The French league, the Top14, has also weighed into the row, with Premiership chief executive, Darren Childs, and his French counterpart, Paul Goze, signing a letter addressed to World Rugby, the RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney and the France federation president Bernard Laporte.

In the letter, the leagues demand that they play a significant role in determining what the fixture future of the sport looks like in the wake of the Covid 19 pandemic.

The letter reads: “It is essential that any possible changes of the competition periods devoted to the national teams can only take place after consultation and within the framework of an agreement with the professional leagues affected by such changes.

“The exceptional situation must lead all the parties to show a spirit of cooperation and solidarity, we do not however imagine that club competitions should be the variable for adjusting the calendar management in the context of this crisis.”

The July international tours have been cancelled by World Rugby, but the governing body has a plan to reschedule them for October.

Seven Autumn matches for England?

England’s postponed Six Nations match against Italy has also been pencilled in for October. With autumn fixtures also in place, England could yet end up playing seven matches in the autumn.

The Premiership is hopeful that its own 2021/21 competition will be underway by then too, though.

The organisers of the Champions Cup have also reportedly targeted October as the month when they can complete the 2019/20 season of their competition.

England coach Eddie Jones is guaranteed access to his players for the match against Italy, but there is no such provision in place for the proposed tour of Japan that could be rescheduled for October.

Clubs want to play a major role

The Premiership has previously asserted that changes to the structure of the season would need to be considered by the clubs via the Professional Game Board.

The new letter that they have sent, though, insists that they play a major part in the decision-making process.

The letter also claims that the clubs have asked to be part of this process several times but have received no response.

World Rugby has stated that the RFU and FFR have insisted that they would prefer to deal directly with the leagues in their countries. They have also maintained that the leagues will be properly consulted over changes to the fixture schedules.

Premiership Rugby is currently waiting for guidance from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport so that it can plan how players are to return to training.

Professional sporting events can resume in the UK after June 1, though the situation in France remains more complicated, as sport will not resume there until September.

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