Bill Sweeney – Home and away Six Nations, global calendar and relegation

Bill Sweeney
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Bill Sweeney RFU Chief Executive Officer poses for a portrait at Twickenham Stadium on June 13, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Luke Walker/Getty Images)

RFU CEO Bill Sweeney has spoken to the media in relation to their struggles and on-going scenarios within English rugby. In it he confirmed the options on the table for the autumn internationals, Six Nations and the global calendar discussions

Robert Rees brings you the latest from the RFU camp.

Global season

“These discussions have gone on for years and we haven’t gotten anywhere. We have a lot of stakeholders and self-interest and different perspectives. When we went into it we wanted to keep our minds open and see what’s on the table as it’s human nature to find faults with what was on the table.

“The trouble is, it’s very difficult to find an option that’s satisfactory for every party. We started our discussions with PRL (Premiership Rugby Limited, governing bogy of the Premiership team), then we went to the working group with the southern hemisphere and a further discussion with PRL. We worked on the basis that we’d take place of the international piece and work with the southern hemisphere, coming back with options we can guarantee before going back to the clubs for deeper consultation.

“One of those options is a greater playing of summer rugby. There are two variants of that, is that playing through July/August or is it stopping in July. There are a lot of people on both sides.

“In terms of the Six Nations, we said from day one if it works in the best interests of the game, and it must do, we will be prepared to move the Six Nations, whether that be by a month or couple of months. One of those options on the table is to move it by a month.

“I think summer can work, but we’re also mindful of the challenges it throws up. You have to look at whether the professional game relates to the community game, where summer rugby may not worked due to shared facilities.

“The alignment of the global calendar means you create a much more meaningful set of autumn internationals (AI), which would allow and need to incorporate ‘tier two’ countries.”

Six Nations relegation

“The issue with the Nations Cup was, and Italy brought up reluctance over relegation, was what do you relegate into? It’s not like in football where you have a viable second division, we don’t really have that in Europe. There’s a longer term challenge for World Rugby, to get the investment right to create a more sustainable and robust ‘tier two’.

“If you replace Italy with Georgia I’m not entirely sure you resolve the issue. The idea of a global calendar is a stronger AI series, which allows ‘tier two’ nations to get involved and progress.”

Autumn international options

“You’ve got the club season finishing later than it usually does so that runs into our October space, so there could be a clash.

“You’ve got the option of a straight forward home and away Six Nations, a competition just with Six Nation teams and then those with possible invitational sides being brought it as well.

“It’s early to say who those sides are, but we can be creative with it. There’s an opportunity for a festival of rugby, to celebrate what the game is about.”

2019 Six Nations

“I don’t see us pushing this year’s games into next year, but finishing 2019 is a priority. Finishing those four games is very much on the cards.”

 

“Main photo credit”

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