Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Significant changes to world rugby on the horizon

Wales played three tests against the All Blacks during June this year. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Wales played three tests against the All Blacks during June this year. Photo / Brett Phibbs

It's possible, as long as there are no rogue voters, that small but significant changes to the rugby calendar will be ratified in November.

Revolutionaries will say the proposals to restructure the season to bring greater alignment between the two hemispheres don't go far enough, but pragmatists will feel the solution on offer is a victory for common sense.

According to the BBC, the restructuring plan has three key planks: the first is to effectively shift the June international window to July.

The second is to no longer schedule Northern Hemisphere tours to the South in the year after a World Cup.

And the third is for the respective key domestic competitions of both hemispheres - Super Rugby, English Premiership, Top 14 and ProD12 - to reach a conclusion at roughly the same time.

That means competitions starting later in the North so they can finish at the end of June. Super Rugby will most likely begin as it currently does in late February, but without having to go on hold for international rugby as it currently does, will be able to also finish in June.

Other more radical changes have been proposed in the past but they have found it difficult to win universal support as they have typically required one of the hemispheres to make significant changes to the timing of their core competitions.

Under this plan, the Six Nations, Rugby Championship and World Cup will all continue to be played in their current slots.

The unknowns at this stage are how teams from the South will fill their international itineraries in the year after a World Cup and how financial arrangements will even themselves out.

The potential will be opened for Southern Hemisphere teams to host tier-two nations in the year after a World Cup - or to at least be creative and flexible in their thinking.

The All Blacks season could end up having a more graduated feel to it - that is they could open their season with a Pacific series for example the year after a World Cup, playing Fiji, Tonga and Samoa in consecutive weeks.

In other post World Cup years they could take on the USA, Japan and Canada. They would then have a short break before commencing the Rugby Championship, before heading to Europe as they currently do.

The season wouldn't look radically different but it would have greater flow and logic - with Super Rugby ending before tests start and greater variety in their test fixtures.

The reason the North want to eliminate touring the year after a World Cup is to prevent their players from going almost 13 months without a break.

Wales, for example, began preparing for the 2015 - held in September/October - World Cup in early June last year. Their players were back playing club rugby the week after they were eliminated in the quarter-finals and didn't finish until they lost to the All Blacks in late June this year.

It is understood that members of World Rugby will vote on the restructuring proposal in November.

- NZ Herald

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