Return to traditional tours on IRB agenda
November 11, 2008
IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset was pleased with the results of the meeting © Getty Images
International rugby's key stakeholders are to investigate a possible return to traditional tours in a bid to enhance the "meaning and value" of the problematic June window.
Australia and New Zealand recently warned they would be prepared to scrap future European tours in protest at having to host under-strength touring teams. France have sent shadow squads to Australia and New Zealand over the past two summers because their domestic club competition has not finished until the end of June.
England selected their strongest possible squad for the trip to New Zealand but they were still missing a large number of front-line players, who were in various stages of rehab. Neither Test was sold out. Both Australia and New Zealand are angry that ticket sales and revenues are hit by below-strength touring teams.
A meeting of representatives from the 10 Tier 1 Unions hosted by the International Rugby Board in Heathrow, England on Tuesday, agreed that a return to traditional tours should be investigated as a potential way forward for the June Test match window. There was also agreement to conclude discussions about the integration of Argentina into the Tri-Nations as a matter of urgency.
A statement released by the IRB today said, "In a constructive and frank meeting, representatives of the IRB, the Six Nations and SANZAR countries and Argentina discussed in detail a range of issues affecting the International calendar. A number of ideas were discussed before the meeting arrived at the conclusion that the best way to enhance meaning and value for the problematic June window was through the creation of a modern version of the traditional tour subject to the Woking commitment that the best available teams would tour each year."
Bernard Lapasset, IRB Chairman said, "The meeting in Heathrow was both constructive and extremely positive and all the delegates demonstrated a clear collective willingness to work together to consider meaningful solutions.
"Building on the outcomes of the historic Global Season Forum at Woking last year, the group asked the IRB to work on three specific opportunities in detail: Tours to the South in the June window; the creation of a Tournament or a series of matches in a Lions year for Unions not involved in the Lions Tour and Argentina's full integration into the Tri Nations.
"The issue of the playing calendar is incredibly complex. It includes the requirements of the clubs, provinces and national Unions, the issue of separate playing seasons in two hemispheres, player welfare requirements, geographical and time zone considerations. Finding solutions that allow for growth, a balanced schedule and the promotion of meaningful matches has been a challenge."
Work on these three issues will begin immediately and will be discussed at upcoming IRB Executive Committee and Council meetings.
* The 10 Tier 1 Unions are: Argentina, Australia, England, France, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, Wales