Six matches instead of the usual 3: World Rugby on Thursday doubled the international window for the autumn tests, despite opposition from the English and French Leagues, paving the way for the organization of a unique tournament in Europe.
"Today is an important day for our sport as it is a first step towards recovery from the global Covid-19 pandemic." Bernard Laporte, vice-president of World Rugby and president of the French Rugby Federation (FFR), can rejoice: the former coach sees the XV of France playing 6 matches between October 24 and December 6, which would allow partly replenish a cash flow damaged by the health crisis.
Either, in order, a preparation match on October 24 (against Scotland or Wales); Ireland on October 31 at the end of the Six Nations Tournament, which the Blues can win for the first time since 2010; and then, after a weekend break, 4 weeks for an unprecedented competition bringing together the six nations and potentially two guests (Fiji, Japan or Georgia). Nothing is official yet but the option of two pools of 4 with a classification match to finish holds the rope well, according to British media.
On the southern hemisphere side, and always if the health situation allows it, the Rugby Championship will take place during the same period (November 7 - December 13), over six weekends in a row and in a single country to limit risks of contagion and problematic international transport during this pandemic period. New Zealand, spared by the virus, is strongly approached to welcome it.
- Too much for the Leagues -
"The agreement and approval of this calendar (...) is an important step in supporting our federations to help them mitigate the financial impact and optimize the resumption of rugby after the pandemic, in a fair manner" , welcomed World Rugby President Bill Beaumont. "All parties have sought to find the best possible solution to support the interests of international rugby, clubs and players," added the Englishman.
A reference to the three months of discussions with the English and French Leagues which could not lead to a compromise: as soon as the announcement of a possible modification of rule 9 to extend the setting from 3 to 6 weekends. available to internationals, the Premiership and the LNR denounced a "unilateral decision" last week.
The powerful clubs of the Top 14, which employ French internationals but also foreigners (Fijians, Georgians, Argentines, South Africans) and are also in serious financial difficulty after the definitive interruption of the season and the uncertainties about the next one, estimate have already agreed to "a very important effort" by offering 5 international matches instead of 3.
- Galthié wants his 6 matches -
Blues coach Fabien Galthié left his reserve on Wednesday by showing his willingness to play all six matches. “The more you play together, the more you progress,” the former international said in an interview with Sud-Ouest.
Will the NRL, with or without the Premiership, go to clash with a legal recourse against World Rugby for being broken into by amending rule 9? Time is running out for all parties - the season resumes on September 4 in France - and the French government has not encouraged optimism by maintaining until August 31 a maximum capacity of 5,000 people in the stadiums, even with prefectural exemptions to raise the ceiling. Impossible to know today how many spectators will count the Stade de France at the end of October to see the Blues play the final victory in the Tournament ...
© 2020 AFP