'Time to separate club and international calendar'
May 18, 2014
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Bath chairman Bruce Craig has issued a manifesto calling for changes to the way club and international rugby co-exist.
In an interview with the Rugby Paper Craig outlined his ideas for the way rugby ought to run in the future, separating club and international rugby in a way which makes both sustainable.
The major change would be for the current June and November Test windows to be scrapped and merged into a new six-week international window running from mid-August to late-September, enabling outgoing and incoming tours to be confined within a single block. Outside that, the Six Nations would be cut from seven to six weeks in the second window of international fixtures.
Those changes would mean the Northern Hemisphere club rugby season would be in two blocks - the first from October to mid-February and then from April to June. The Southern Hemisphere's Super Rugby season would be completed in one block between February and July, with the Rugby Championship being played in October and November. World Cups and Lions tours could be accommodated within the August to September window.
Craig said he anticipated hostility from the Six Nations unions and the IRB but that could be overcome. "What we have is based on history and is a remnant of the bygone amateur and touring days," he said. "If we were to have a blank piece of paper, we certainly wouldn't have the fragmented nature of the international and club scene in the North and South. Anyone sensible outside rugby would say it doesn't make sense.
"There should be a separation of the club and international calendar. There's no way the club game should be devalued by playing on the same day as Test matches, so one of the key things is to have different windows in which to do things.
"Nothing in the Northern Hemisphere is based on logic, it's purely based on historical blocks like the Six Nations, which everyone says is the Holy Grail which makes international rugby all its money, and the June and November blocks."
The June block, he said, was the worst of the lot. "An England tour at the end of a really tough season is very hard on players. It should be scrapped and an extended international block later in the year would be the best solution for English rugby."
Asked if his plans are simply those of a club chairman putting his interests ahead of the greater national ones, he said it was not that simple. "We all know players want to play international rugby and we want the national team to be at the pinnacle of the English game as well. The problem with all of this is that the Unions and IRB all like the status quo. They don't necessarily want to change anything but we need to be progressive in England and push things forward, which is what I and others fully intend to do."
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