The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda Senior Sports Reporter
AN electrifying line up of international matches is set to take place later this year after the World Rugby Council approved a provisional amendment to regulation nine to accommodate the release of international players for revised 2020 windows.
The fine-tuning to the regulation has been approved as a temporary measure to alleviate the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus on global rugby activities and provides a welcome boost for players, teams, fans, and broadcast and commercial partners.
In a statement sent out on Thursday, World Rugby said the endorsement of the change after dialogue between the sport’s stakeholders, which took into consideration interest s of the international game.
“Approval follows extensive and productive dialogue between the sport’s major stakeholders, balancing the interests of the international game, the professional club game and player welfare to determine a schedule that will optimise the immediate financial recovery and funding of the sport at all levels,’’ read part of the World Rugby statement.
According to World Rugby, the windows approved for player release are temporary global player release window for 2020: 24 October – first weekend of December and temporary Rugby Championship window for 2020: 7 November – second weekend of December. The temporary global window will accommodate the completion of the 2020 men’s and women’s Six Nations Championships on 24 and 31 October, a rest weekend on 7 November and four consecutive rounds of international matches. With Covid-19 restrictions continuing to impact international travel and entry requirements, on an exceptional basis this year’s Rugby Championship will take place over a reduced six-week period between 7 November and the second week in December with SANZAAR having asked New Zealand to host. Special measures have to be put into practice to deal with any government-required isolation period prior to the start of the competition.
The current Regulation 9 windows will return to normal after the conclusion of the temporary calendar. All parties, including unions, club competitions and players, remain committed to continued dialogue regarding the long-term harmonisation of the international calendar for the betterment of all. World Rugby continued to state that the rearrangement of the domestic, European and international calendars should enable professional clubs to have access to their key southern hemisphere players for the completion of 2019/20 seasons.
“The rescheduling of the domestic, European and international calendars will accommodate the ability for the professional clubs to have access to their star southern hemisphere international players for the completion of the postponed and rescheduled 2019/20 seasons at a time in which they would have ordinarily been on international duty in August and September. The process also reflects the ambition to minimise impact on the EPCR and English Premiership finals matches,’’ said World Rugby.
Bill Beaumont, the World Rugby chairman said: “The global Covid-19 pandemic has been unprecedented in its impact on society and sport and, throughout this process, all parties have sought to deliver the best-possible outcome to support the interests of international and club rugby and the players.”
Agreement and approval of this schedule is exciting for players and fans and an important step in supporting our unions in mitigating financial impact and optimising the sport’s return from the pandemic in an equitable way.
“These matches will be greatly anticipated by all, and I would like to thank unions, the international and club competitions and players for their input and the fans for their patience as we have sought to get international rugby back up and running.”
World Rugby vice-chairman Bernard Laporte added: “Today represents an important day for our sport as the first steps towards recovery from the global Covid-19 pandemic. This has been no small effort and there have been many conversations, but the position approved by Council today represents the best interests of the global game and I look forward to seeing the world’s best players doing what they do best back on the international stage.”