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Global rugby season hopes take blow

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 26/07/2016 Duncan Bech

Hopes of establishing a more globally aligned season have receded, with the Rugby Football Union (RFU) indicating it is unwilling to move the Six Nations or autumn schedule.

New World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont aims to synchronise the northern and southern hemisphere calendars, insisting that to make room, the Six Nations might have to be staged in April.

His plans have already hit a major stumbling block, however, with RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie hinting Twickenham will oppose any changes to the bulwarks of the international season in Europe.

If the Six Nations and November series are to remain in their slots, only the June tours will be left for negotiation.

"The Six Nations, as far as the date in the calendar is concerned, works well," Ritchie told BBC Radio 4.

"As far as we're concerned, we have a great TV deal and we have stadia that are filled for every game. Why would you want to change something that works really well? So I can't see there being any significant move in that.

"And I think as well that the autumn internationals work terribly well for us as well. It's early days yet, but it's going to be an interesting few months on the global calendar discussions."

The agreement over international fixtures expires after the 2019 World Cup and the stance of the sport's richest union points to few changes being made to the existing schedule.

New Zealand Rugby is pushing strongly for the introduction of a global season, believing it is the only solution to a calendar which has become increasingly congested and unworkable.

Adding to the gloom gathering over plans to harmonise the hemispheres is the new STG200 million ($NZ375 million) deal that extends until 2024 agreed to on Monday by the RFU and Premiership clubs.

"There have been a number of preliminary discussions about the global season. We've obviously had some talks about how we see the English situation and it's early days," Ritchie said.

"It's a priority moving on. You've always got to have some elements of flexibility in an eight-year deal."

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