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June rugby Tests pushed back from 2020

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 17/03/2017

The Kiwi and Australian rugby unions have been granted their wish for the Super Rugby season to proceed uninterrupted, with mid-year Test matches to be pushed back to July from 2020.

World Rugby made the decision on Thursday to shift the June international window back a month, allowing Super Rugby to wrap up without a month-long break.

Since the expansion to 18 teams last year, Super Rugby players not selected for Test duty would go into hibernation at a time when the competition was building up to the finals series.

New Zealand Rugby and the Australian Rugby Union have long preferred a continuous season, but the move has been long resisted by wealthy northern hemisphere clubs.

All Blacks and Wallabies playing in mid-year Tests from 2020 will have a full Super Rugby season behind them.

The new July international window will then flow into the four-team Rugby Championship, which will start in August.

"National unions have worked hard to agree to this calendar, which gives us great long-term certainty around our international fixtures," NZR boss Steve Tew said.

"This is an excellent outcome for New Zealand, with Super Rugby able to run without the disruptive June break, and provides the optimum preparation for the July international window."

ARU boss Bill Pulver also expressed his satisfaction with the changes.

The shift will also allow a 39 per cent increase in fixtures between tier-one and tier-two nations, enabling tours in the Pacific Islands, Japan, Canada, United States, Georgia and Romania.

The July Test window will be followed by the current November window, moved forward a week and comprising the first three weeks of that month.

The new arrangement will run from 2020 to 2032, handing NZR the opportunity to lock in a 10-year programme of July tours.

"This has been an important piece of work which also takes into account the welfare of players, development and advancement opportunities for emerging nations, and an exciting programme of Test rugby," Tew said.

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