World Rugby facing legal action over schedule

DUBLIN • World Rugby has doubled its international window for the autumn Tests, despite opposition from the English and French Leagues.

The decision by the World Rugby Council on Thursday to approve a temporary 2020 calendar following the coronavirus shutdown means that international teams can play six autumn Tests instead of the normal three. That allows international tournaments postponed because of the pandemic to catch up, but potentially at the expense of club fixtures. The French National Rugby League (LNR), which runs French club rugby, said it has taken a first step towards legal proceedings by issuing a formal notice to World Rugby, accusing it of modifying the international calendar "without any real consultation with the professional leagues and in particular the LNR".

Under the World Rugby plan, the Six Nations, put on hold in March with one round of games plus the Ireland-Italy match still to play, will be completed on Oct 24 and 31.

A rest weekend after that will be followed by four consecutive rounds of international matches.

The Rugby Championship will take place over a reduced six-week period starting Nov 7. Southern hemisphere governing body Sanzaar has asked New Zealand to host the tournament.

The English Premiership is due to resume this month and the knockout stages of the European club competitions next month.

World Rugby said that approval for the temporary calendar came after dialogue between the sport's major stakeholders, balancing the interests of the international game, the professional club game and player welfare.

A fierce debate has raged over potential schedules, with the Premiership and French league as well as players' unions concerned over a possible fixture pile-up.

"Losing so many players for five or six weeks plus a weekend off, which is still a long time coming, is a lot," said Didier Lacroix, president of last year's French champions Toulouse, who provide the backbone of the France team, in response to the announcement. "We are asking for a balanced effort."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2020, with the headline 'World Rugby facing legal action over schedule'. Print Edition | Subscribe