Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: North must budge for global season

Dyan Hartley of England lifts the Six Nations trophy. Photo / Getty
Dyan Hartley of England lifts the Six Nations trophy. Photo / Getty

The key to creating a global season is that administrators and executives on both sides of the equator have to be bold enough and visionary enough to make a decision for the greater good of the game.

It will take selflessness, compromise and maybe even sacrifice to create a season structure that provides the game with the basis for sustainability which it currently doesn't have.

All of which is bad news because chief executive of the Rugby Football Union Ian Ritchie has given every indication he has no intention of thinking beyond his tenure. He obviously has an eye on his legacy and doesn't want to be remembered by his own constituents - the sort who can't understand why everyone doesn't drive a Range Rover - as the man who agreed to challenge history by agreeing to move the Six Nations.

Judging by what he said overnight - telling the BBC that there is no appetite to change anything in regard to when test football is played in the Northern Hemisphere - he believes the status quo is perfect.

Sadly, this is exactly the sort of self-interested, short sightedness that has left the game in the massive hole in which it finds itself.

Not that Ritchie appears to have any concept that it is in a hole. He doesn't think it is because the pounds - even in their semi-worthless, post Brexit state - are rolling in. Six Nations games could sell out three times over; broadcast revenue is increasing all the time and sponsors want a piece of the action. So he equates financial success with total success.

But the problem is that the players are being broken in the current set up. The physical and mental demands of paying rugby non-stop for almost 11 months solid, are too much for any player to be gull noise all season.

The only way things can be fixed are for the players in both hemispheres to be given a 16-week gap between the last game of one season and the first game of the next. That's what everyone effectively means when they talk about a global season and without moving either the Six Nations or Novembers tests, it won't be able to happen.

So what next if the North don't budge? What if they say they aren't willing to move an inch to create the season the players want?

Well, the only option left is for the New Zealand Rugby Union to go with the nuclear option - and follow through with their threat of refusing to schedule any tests outside of the Rugby Championship beyond 2019.

It will be an ugly state of affairs - for the All Blacks to say they will only play tests against Northern Hemisphere sides when it suits them and on financial terms that benefit them.

And at that point, it will be a case of sitting back to see who blinks first. Either the All Blacks will be left out in the cold and brought to their knees financially, or proper talks will begin again about creating a global season.

- NZ Herald

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