Re-elected World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont has revealed plans for a new global tournament which could lead to two consecutive months of international action.
Beaumont is keen to resurrect plans for an annual competition which were dropped last year.
World Rugby is in discussions to see if a 12 country Nations Cup can be revived as a concept in which the Six Nations countries have an annual league structure of matches against the southern hemisphere. There is a possibility that there might be a back-to-back test window of October and November in the future rather than the current July and November when home and away matches could be played although such discussions are only at an embryonic talking point stage and would only progress once clubs and players had been more closely consulted.
The push towards finalising a global season was also a big part of the manifesto of Agustin Pichot who ceded the election on Sunday to Beaumont by a margin of 28 votes to 23, a narrow victory in that if only one of the major European countries, who had three votes, had opted the other way, then the Argentinian would have won.
Beaumont acknowledged that the game is 'at a cross-roads,' but stressed that one of the consequences of the pandemic is that 'there is a real desire from the north and south to reunite,' the sport. It was felt that any restructuring of the calendar would see the Six Nations move further into the year, perhaps to take place in April and May. Beaumont dismissed that notion.
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"Why would you move the Six Nations?" said Beaumont. "It is not affecting anyone else's window on the global calendar. It's been played in February and March since I was a lad. Nobody has ever mentioned to me that the Six Nations would move its timescale. Certainly that would not be the intention currently. The Six Nations is owned by the Six Nations. What we will try and do is bring in a new competition that still keeps the Six Nations as a stand-alone competition.
"There could be an appetite to put the windows together and there are currently representatives from both northern and southern hemispheres doing that. What has stimulated the debate is the position regarding this (Covid-19) year when we don't know when any games will take place, so would it be better putting two windows together? So the North go South in one month. Then immediately after, the South go North the next month.
"But we have to take all stakeholders with us - in the North we have to take the club game, the European game, so we are in dialogue with all these stakeholders. But you could have a competition in between with all the countries that play in those two windows. Sitting below that you could have a subsidiary competition that involves all the emerging nations, and you could well have promotion and relegation into that. My job is to get consensus from everybody in the game. I do think there is an appetite from the Six Nations to look at a Nations Cup."
Beaumont did refer to the Six Nations as a 'a six-week tournament,' when in fact it takes place over seven weekends. It was seemingly a slip of the tongue although the concept of compressing it has been a talking point but yet to have traction.
Covid-19 has triggered a need for every union and all professional outfits at club and regional level to consider several contingency scenarios, one of which is for international rugby to fill the October and November slot albeit European Cup officials have ear-marked those weeks for their held-over tournament.
The re-start for rugby is very much an issue for the government in each territory although Beaumont did say quite categorically that World Rugby has not been debating any law changes with a view to reducing contact at the scrum or in the tackle, scrummaging or spitting/saliva issues, so as to speed up any return.
"No, there hasn't been any talk about changing the laws," said Beaumont who did have one definite announcement to make in that BOA chairman, Sir Hugh Robertson, will oversee a Governance commission at World Rugby to make sure best standards are being met. There is also a push to amend Regulation 8 so that a Pacific Island player, for example, who has represented New Zealand or Australia, might be able to play for a Fiji or a Samoa in the latter stages of their career.