Super Rugby break ditched in re-vamped global rugby calendar

By Warren Barnsley, Warren Barnsley is a Roar Guru

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40 Have your say

    Australia and New Zealand have been granted their wish for the Super Rugby season to proceed uninterrupted, with mid-year Test matches to be pushed back from 2020 as part of changes to the global rugby calendar.

    World Rugby made the decision on Thursday to shift the June international window back a month to July after 2019, allowing the Super Rugby competition to wrap up in June without a month-long break.

    Since the expansion to 18 teams last year, Super Rugby players not selected for national duties would go into hibernation, with critics saying the Test window comes at a time when the competition was gaining momentum before finals in a turn-off for fans and broadcasters.

    The Australia Rugby Union has long preferred a continuous season, but the move has been resisted in the northern hemisphere, particularly by the rich English and French clubs.

    Wallabies playing in mid-year Tests from 2020 will have a full Super Rugby season behind them.

    The new July international window will flow into the southern hemisphere’s Rugby Championship, contested by the Wallabies, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina, starting in August.

    “Our number one priority was to ensure that we could move to an uninterrupted Super Rugby season and we are delighted to have reached that outcome with today’s announcement,” ARU boss Bill Pulver said in a statement on Friday.

    The changes will also allow a 39 per cent increase in fixtures between tier-one and tier-two nations, with tier-one countries touring the Pacific Islands, Japan, Canada, United States, Georgia and Romania.

    The July Test window will be followed by the current November window, moved forward a week and comprising the first three weeks of that month.

    The new arrangement will run from 2020 to 2032.

    “(The schedule) sets new standards by prioritising rest periods, promoting equity for the sport’s emerging powers and harmonising the relationship between the international and domestic games,” World Rugby said in a statement.

    New Zealand Rugby is also on board.

    “This has been an important piece of work which also takes into account the welfare of players, development and advancement opportunities for emerging nations, and an exciting programme of test rugby,” NZR chief executive Steve Tew said on Friday.

    But uncertainty around the future of Super Rugby – with an Australian franchise rumoured to be on the chopping block – remains as SANZAAR are yet to reveal their decision following last week’s strategic meeting in London.

    © AAP 2018

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    The Crowd Says (40)

    • March 17th 2017 @ 11:30am
      Old Bugger said | March 17th 2017 @ 11:30am | ! Report

      The July window really was, the only option to take.

      With the NH club competition finals still being played in June, it became farcical that NH international tours down-under, were being nobbled before the sides even departed when selected players, were staying back to fulfil club requirements before flying South, to join their colleagues.

      Even worse, was SR breaking its season just when the final rounds of the competition were due to be played, so that the international June window, could be accommodated.

      Now, the NH clubs get to retain their players for the finals series and the SR gets to run its full course, without interruption.

      A fair and reasonable outcome, for global rugby.

      • Roar Guru

        March 17th 2017 @ 3:44pm
        Poth Ale said | March 17th 2017 @ 3:44pm | ! Report

        The PRO12 and Premiership finals are played on last Saturday in May each year. Not in June.

        The European finals are played earlier in May. The only comp currently running into June is Top14.

        The only tours where players arrived late were French ones.

        The June test series was compromised because Super Rugby was expanded to 15 teams causing it to run longer into June.

        The NH season will now likely start in late September rather than at beginning. December and January will be used to play European cup pool matches in one block. France and England clubs want to compress the Six a Nations into five weeks which the unions in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and Italy will not want as they have fewer teams and more test players concentrated in each.

        The PRO12 is meant to be moving to an 18 week conference league for start of 2018/19 season which will reduce player time/fatigue.

        I don’t know why the NH unions agreed to this change and they also gave in on not having June tours after a RWC. Instead, they’ll play two tests in the SH meaning they’ll have a 12 month season in a RWC year – madness.

        • March 17th 2017 @ 3:56pm
          Old Bugger said | March 17th 2017 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

          My mistake but, I always thought that when England toured in 2014, their first test team was missing players due to club commitments or the players needed time to recover before flying down-under….something like that. That test in NZ could’ve been won by England if the side had its full complement – it was only a last minute try by Con Smith, that secured an ABs win.

          • March 17th 2017 @ 4:01pm
            Old Bugger said | March 17th 2017 @ 4:01pm | ! Report

            Also Poth, if the north finals are played on the last Saturday in May, then on most occasions, the first test down-under, is usually the first weekend in June, unless some prior arrangement is considered. Doesn’t leave much time to recover, does it??

            • March 17th 2017 @ 6:38pm
              Bakkies said | March 17th 2017 @ 6:38pm | ! Report

              Pro 12 players in Ireland that toured usually have the first few weeks off.

              The issue is that the French start their season in August if they push it back a couple of weeks you are going to have the same problem as you have now moving in to July

              • March 17th 2017 @ 7:10pm
                Old Bugger said | March 17th 2017 @ 7:10pm | ! Report

                Ummmm, I’m trying to figure out how a final game in the last week of May, doesn’t impede upon a test match a week later?? And, we haven’t even considered, a flight half-way across our wonderful globe.

                I now know all about the French Connection but what I’m trying to reveal, is the UK club impact, upon down-under tours.

          • March 17th 2017 @ 7:20pm
            FunBus said | March 17th 2017 @ 7:20pm | ! Report

            That’s not quite how it happened, OB. The agreement was always that the June tests would start the second weekend in June (so for example the first test in the England Oz series was 11 June with the Aviva final two Saturday’s before). In 2014 the 31st May was a Saturday. Everyone in England assumed, as tests are always on Saturday in the June series, that the first test in NZ would be Saturday 14 June, so the Aviva final was scheduled, as always, for the last Saturday in May. The NZ Union, for reasons that could only have been to make life awkward for England, decided the first test would be 7 June and wouldn’t budge. Their excuse was that as the previous Sunday was the 1st June, the next weekend was the second weekend of June. It was very cynical.
            On the wider issue, I agree with Poth Ale. I don’t know what has possessed the northern unions to agree to the July switch and rollover on not having June tests in a RWC year. In 2015/2016 England played 12 months of non stop rugby while the SH had a 3 month break. This now seems institutionalised. In addition the move to July cuts hugely into what little break they have in a normal season. It seems that for the SH, ‘compromise’ means having all their demands met with an apology for not doing it sooner.

          • Columnist

            March 17th 2017 @ 7:33pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | March 17th 2017 @ 7:33pm | ! Report

            Don’t worry, you’re spot on OB!

            • March 17th 2017 @ 7:45pm
              FunBus said | March 17th 2017 @ 7:45pm | ! Report

              I don’t understand how OB can be right, Nicholas. The Aviva final is always the last Saturday in May and the first June test is two weeks later. The only time this didn’t happen was NZ. I could be wrong, but I can’t think of another example when the first test was played on the first Saturday in June, since the new agreement on June tests.

              • Columnist

                March 17th 2017 @ 8:40pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | March 17th 2017 @ 8:40pm | ! Report

                IIRC the RFU and FFR both wanted to move to a July window back then but were blocked by the rest of the 6N committee, and so the first Test was played on 7 June, while the EPL final was on 31 May.

                Allowing for a couple of days of recovery and a further six or seven days needed for acclimatization on the far side of the globe, there was no way the Saints and Sarries players could participate meaningfully until the middle of the second week of the tour.

                It’s plain stupid, and the same will now happen with the Lions. If you want these tours to really mean something, the players have to be able to R&R between a domestic peak and a new international peak at the end of a long season.

          • Roar Guru

            March 17th 2017 @ 9:40pm
            Rugby Fan said | March 17th 2017 @ 9:40pm | ! Report

            2014 was down to New Zealand’s perverse decision to prioritize Super Rugby over Test rugby.

            The English Premiership Final was on 31st May. The June Tests always start in the second week of June, which gives a sufficient gap. The second Saturday that year was the 14th, which would have given players from Saracens & Saints plenty of time to turn out.

            However, NZ belatedly decided to nominate the weekend of the 31st May/1st June as the first weekend, so they wanted the first Test to be played on the 7th June instead. This gave the English finalists no chance to be ready to play under World Rugby’s jet lag protocol.

            World Rugby said New Zealand were entitled to ask for those dates under the rules but couldn’t understand why they would do so, when the whole point of the window was to ensure touring teams could field their strongest teams. It turned out that NZ didn’t want to move the Super Rugby fixtures to accommodate the later Test date.

            • March 18th 2017 @ 10:59am
              Whakaata said | March 18th 2017 @ 10:59am | ! Report

              And why should NZ move their Super rugby matches that is and was already compromised due to the farcical test windows?

              This is the whole reason why NZ has insisted on a global season, so it doesn’t and did not impact on the Super competition.

              Seems to me to be just another case of people wanting any chance they can to have a go at NZRU.

              Let the NH finish their seasons but make NZ stop theirs completely. What a joke.

              • Roar Guru

                March 18th 2017 @ 3:28pm
                Rugby Fan said | March 18th 2017 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

                The three match tours were set up in response to complaints from SANZAR that home crowds weren’t interested in June Tests, as they thought Northern teams sent weakened sides. It made no sense for NZRU to hold that opinion, and then immediately insist on a window which guaranteed the opposition couldn’t field a full-strength team.

                The only conclusion to draw is that the marketing argument was bogus. Most in the north had always felt that anyway but hadn’t expected the NZRU to confirm it quite so blatantly.

              • March 18th 2017 @ 4:06pm
                Old Bugger said | March 18th 2017 @ 4:06pm | ! Report


                But, that’s exactly what was happening – weakened NH teams touring down-under were becoming a joke. Think back to England in the late ’90s touring Aus and getting smashed 76-0 in the test. And yet, SA, AU and NZ were sending their best teams up Nth every November and still, the host nation retained all the income.

                You can see how many folks would want to go and watch a 2nd string NH team get smashed, down-under in June compared to, how many NH fans would go see their side play the best SB, WB and AB sides, up north. There was no comparison, at the games and, at the till.

                And just for your information, the negotiations between NH and SH unions also included, the future of BIL tours. It seems their was a quid-pro-quo arrangement finalised last week to ensure the BIL tours down-under would continue to SA, AU and NZ but, to get that, the SH unions had to forgo, pursuing better deals, from the Nov tours.

                So, the previous financial arrangements with the Nov tours remained unchanged and, the BILs tours would continue albeit, with total games per tour reduced from 10, down to 8matches.

                The forecast total income anticipated to be earned following the BIL tour to NZ, is in the region of $40million for the NZRU, after expenses are paid. Now, you may understand why there has been some to-ing and fro-ing by Tew, over these past 12-18mths.

                I have no doubts that the future of BIL tours down-under, were at the top of SH unions, negotiation list.

                And, these tours, have been agreed, to continue.

              • March 18th 2017 @ 8:10pm
                Old Bugger said | March 18th 2017 @ 8:10pm | ! Report

                Btw RF – guess how many Twickenham tests it would take NZRU to get $40million, if they secured 50:50 profit split???

                Well, if the current itineraries are any indication, it would be somewhere in the vicinity of 8test matches spread over 35-40 years or so since such tests, would happen every 4-5yrs.

                Now, compare that to a BIL tour – the next tour to NZ will be 2053 but importantly, all SH unions will benefit and not just, NZRU when the BILs, tour AU and SA.

                Who knows – NZ may build a bigger stadium in the next 40yrs just to satisfy the RFU CEO’s request for NZ, to build bigger stadia.

        • Roar Guru

          March 17th 2017 @ 7:16pm
          Cadfael said | March 17th 2017 @ 7:16pm | ! Report

          Maybe in the UK but the TOP 14 final is in early June. This affects French test players though I’m not sure how this affects players selected for the home countries

        • Columnist

          March 17th 2017 @ 7:32pm
          Nicholas Bishop said | March 17th 2017 @ 7:32pm | ! Report

          The only tours where players arrived late were French ones.

          That’s not correct PA. In 2014 England toured New Zealand and the Sarries and Northampton players (fourteen of them) were not on the plane because they were contesting the EPL playoff final – they only arrived in time for the second Test after missing Eden Park. That ruined the tour as a development exercise.

          The Lions tour this summer will also be disrupted by late arrivals after Pro 12 and EPL finals. They occur on 27 May, first Lions match on 3 June – so they will miss the first week’s prep and hence selection…

          Apart from the timings, there’s the very real issue of players arriving for a big tour having already been required to peak for one or even two recent finals (in Saracens case back in 2014). Mentally very draining.

    • March 17th 2017 @ 12:23pm
      Lion Down Under said | March 17th 2017 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

      I can’t believe the blazers of the NH Unions agreed to this.

      The NH season will now run from Sept – July (11 months of rugby) so that SANZAAR can get the Super Rugby deal that it wants.

      Totally unsustainable.

      I do like the more games for Tier 2 Nations though.

    • March 17th 2017 @ 12:41pm
      Old Bugger said | March 17th 2017 @ 12:41pm | ! Report


      I thought the NH always had a long season but what this revamp refers to, is the international windows and season.

      The SH international season starts in June, 2mths break, then restart in Sept through to end Nov. Within that period, the SH sides will have played anywhere from 13-15 test matches. In other words, over approx 16weeks, which in general terms equates to a test, every week.

      Correct me if I’m wrong but, the NH international season begins with the 6N in Feb – March, 2mths break and reconvenes in June for the down-under tours with a 3mth break before reconvening in Oct-Nov for the NH tours by SH teams. Again, there’s approx 16wks of test rugby involving upwards of approx 14-16tests. As in SH, this equates to approx 1 test each week.

      The major difference is, the intervening breaks, between test windows.

      • Roar Guru

        March 17th 2017 @ 2:47pm
        Rugby Fan said | March 17th 2017 @ 2:47pm | ! Report

        The demands of Super Rugby were paramount in this reorganization, so it’s not just about Test rugby in isolation.

        In the North,as Lion says, rugby is now going to be played in eleven months out of twelve. If you include preseason tournaments, then it’s actually year round rugby.

        • March 17th 2017 @ 3:40pm
          Old Bugger said | March 17th 2017 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

          As I said – I always thought the NH season was long whereas the SH season is Feb-Nov.

          The southern Dec-Jan break was initiated between the Union Boards and representatives from the respective RUPA’s. It is a compulsory break however, the ABs take an additional month off, as required for various players (i.e. those players who play all the Nov tests, will be given a 3mth period to rest and recover. The rest period decreases per player depending upon No of tests played in Nov).

          Perhaps, that’s the difference between hemispheres – north have private clubs separate from the national boards whereas the south have the boards overseeing, the rugby in total. Once the tests are over up north, the players are expected to fulfil, their club commitments, hence very little opportunity to recover. Whereas down-under, the boards tend to champion, an R&R period but it seems only NZ, includes the 3rd mth.

          Each to their own, I suppose but, it has always been the issue of trying to get a better international calendar. Once that was done, the club and SR rugby, then followed.

          • Roar Guru

            March 17th 2017 @ 3:47pm
            Poth Ale said | March 17th 2017 @ 3:47pm | ! Report

            Nope. In England and France there is clear separation between clubs and union. The unions have a heavy involvement or own them for the other four unions.

            • March 17th 2017 @ 3:50pm
              Old Bugger said | March 17th 2017 @ 3:50pm | ! Report

              I thought I mentioned a separation in my post (para 3)….?? But, can you amplify your 2nd sentence? I don’t know what you mean by heavy involvement or own them for the other unions.

              • March 17th 2017 @ 6:41pm
                Bakkies said | March 17th 2017 @ 6:41pm | ! Report

                Pro 12 is run for the unions. Only the Welsh have a separate body for their regions

              • March 17th 2017 @ 7:15pm
                Old Bugger said | March 17th 2017 @ 7:15pm | ! Report

                Nah sorry, but you’re not addressing the first issue which is why this revamp of the June window, has more affect upon the NH teams than the SH teams.

                All I have tried to say is that the revamp was all to do with international windows but, all I’m seeing, is its impact upon the NH club competition.

                Do you guys think that we don’t have any competition down-under, that is not a test match??

    • Roar Guru

      March 17th 2017 @ 12:46pm
      Nobrain said | March 17th 2017 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

      Agustin PIchot, when he took the VP blazer, said that his two principal objetives were player eligibilty to represent nations and a global calendar. Well , it sems that we are going in that direction. .

      • Roar Guru

        March 17th 2017 @ 1:31pm
        The Neutral View From Sweden said | March 17th 2017 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

        Pinchot seems to be a rugby idealist, who does not get fazed by old boys blazer clubs.
        Huge props must go to him for actually creating some meaningful change.
        If only he could coach Jaguares and Pumas also 😉

    • Roar Guru

      March 17th 2017 @ 2:03pm
      Charging Rhino said | March 17th 2017 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

      “Australia and New Zealand have been granted their wish for the Super Rugby season to proceed uninterrupted”- Didn’t South Africa all want this???

    • March 17th 2017 @ 3:02pm
      scottd said | March 17th 2017 @ 3:02pm | ! Report

      well at least something has gone right for the ARU this year!!!

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