Plans have been put in place by the Six Nations and Sanzar to ensure a harmonised international calendar in rugby union.
After the fixture schedule was destroyed by the Coronavirus emergency across the world, minds at the two governing bodies became focused on how a smoother international calendar could be developed.
The plan is now for the Six Nations to move back a month from its current start date to March to April in 2021.
The Rugby Championship, the southern hemisphere’s international tournament, should now be played in the same window.
Agreement by July?
An agreement on the matter could be reached by as early as this July, with a new mood of cooperation in place between the two governing bodies.
A joint statement read: “The nations have sought to eliminate self-interest and recognise the international and club game have shared mutual benefits.”
The statement went on to assert that the new scheduling would improve player welfare, as well as minimise the conflict between clubs and countries that has characterised rugby union in recent years.
It is also hoped that the changes will create more opportunities for marquee international fixtures between the world’s biggest teams.
Such a change has been a thorny subject for debate in rugby union for many years now.
A summit in San Francisco in 2017 failed to bring about any meaningful change. There were also plans put in place in 2019 for a ‘Nations Championship’ but they never came to fruition.
Beaumont optimistic for further progress
Last month, the boss of World Rugby, Sir Bill Beaumont, expressed optimism that a new Nations tournament, or a similar arrangement, could be agreed.
He also stated that the current world health crisis acted as a reality check for the wider game.
“In the past where people have been quite protective about what they have got, I think what we are looking at now is that this is probably a reality check in the sport [in terms of] are we doing things correctly?” he said, speaking to BBC 5 Live’s Guest List show.
“There is a real feeling I get now that there will be some variant of the Nations Championship that will come back on the table.”
Sanzar and the Six Nations contain the top 10 teams in world rugby union.
The Six Nations consists of Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, Italy and France, while the Sanzar nations are New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina.
Currently, most professional rugby union is suspended due to the Covod-19 pandemic, though domestic rugby is set to resume in New Zealand on June 13.
Things look like taking significantly longer to get going again in the northern hemisphere, however.
The Premiership and Pro-14 seasons are unlikely to resume until at least August, as things currently stand.
When the grassroots game will resume is also open to some significant doubt.